Be Aware, Take Action but Don’t Move a Mussel

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It’s no secret that the Great Lakes bring Michigan and the surrounding regions an economic boost through tourism, industries such as fishing and agriculture, recreation, residential properties and more.

Because of the regional impact, it’s also no secret that the ecological health of the Great Lakes is the linchpin.

So, what happens when invasive species make a home in our lakes and upset the delicate balance? A whole host of problems. In the most simple terms, an invasive species is something, a living organism, that doesn’t belong here. It could be a plant or an animal or even a microbe or bacteria.

Zebra mussels and their close cousins, Quagga Mussels, are a great example of the worst kind of invasive species. Native to Eastern Europe, they made their way over in the ballast waters of international freighters in the late 1980s 

Here are the top 5 reasons why they’re so problematic.

1. They chow down on our native fish food sources, which hurts the native fish population and our fishing industries.

2. They cause damage to boats by attaching to bottoms and motors.

3. They disrupt power plants and water treatment facilities by clogging water intake pipes. 

4. They fuel green algae growth which poses health risks to fish, shore birds, other animals and humans because harmful bacteria lingers on wet sand.

5. They crowd out and threaten our own native mussels, which about 45 species call Michigan home.

Zebra and quagga mussels are tiny but mighty, and it’s been said they have caused some of the most intense ecological changes in the Great Lakes. What they lack in size, they make up in volume. It’s estimated that quagga mussels alone are in the trillions and most likely carpet the floor of Lake Michigan.

Eradication isn’t likely, but scientists are finding ways to control them without affecting the environment.

This may all seem like bad news, but there are things you can do.

1. Know how to spot these tiny invaders. They are barely an inch in length, but they come with some identifying characteristics. 

2. Report them to the DNR or to the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network. They even have an app you can download. By reporting your sightings, you play a role in control efforts.

3. Don’t move them! The best thing to do is to clean your boat before moving it from one body of water to another. Invasive mussels are nasty hitchhikers that will attach to nearly anything.

That’s why we say “Wipe Your Bottom.” A little cheeky yes, our goal is to help conserve and educate. If you want to share the message too, you can always get a Wipe Your Bottom reusable tote or our Don’t Move a Mussel tee. For every purchase you make, $1 is donated to your choice of Alliance for the Great Lakes or the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.

Brian Schwartz