Our clean water, abundant fisheries, water-based recreation and locally produced foods are foundations for our Idaho quality of life.
Unfortunately, invasive nonnative mussels are putting all these at risk. Quagga and zebra mussels were first found in the Great Lakes in the 1980s, in the ballast water of a cargo ship from the Black Sea in Europe. Since then, they have continued to spread via recreational boats as they are hauled from water body to water body.
Invasive mussel larvae can survive in trapped water inside boats. Mussels can adhere to the hulls of boats that have been moored in the water. Mussels can survive for days out of the water as a boat is being transported to a new body of water. Mussels are strong!
The Problem with Mussels
Invasive mussels alter aquatic ecology by filtering out up to 80% of the algae. This filtering increases the water visibility but robs native organisms of the algae they need to survive. The harm that stems from reducing the food source ripples up through the food chain to larger fish and even fishermen. Mussel infestations can also ruin irrigation and power plant infrastructure, foul boat motors and hulls, and cover beaches and rocks with sharp, fingernail-sized shells.
Eradicating them is virtually impossible. If they become established in the Snake River and Columbia River system, their effects will cost us an estimated $500 million a year-forever.
This map shows a time sequence of the spread of mussels across North America. Last year, invasive mussels were found in Montana for the first time in the headwaters of the Missouri River. Gov. Steve Bullock declared a statewide natural resource emergency as a result.
How You Can Help
The first thing you can do is let your legislators know that you support a state office of invasive species.
And if you’re a boat owner, you can make sure that your boat isn’t spreading mussels. Boat owners need to take proactive steps to clean, drain and dry their boats, particularly after launching in a waterbody where mussels have been established.
In addition, the Idaho Department of Agriculture works to prevent boats harboring mussels from entering Idaho. The department operates a series of roadside boat inspection stations along the main entryways in Idaho. Since the start of the inspection program in 2009, 145 boats with mussels have been intercepted and decontaminated.
Get Your Sticker
The inspection stations are funded by Idaho boat owners who purchase invasive species stickers. The stickers cost $7 for nonmotorized boats. The law states that any boat registered in Idaho or another state and any nonmotorized vessel (canoe, kayak, raft, drift boat, etc.) needs to have the sticker. Inflatable nonmotorized vessels must be less than 10 feet in length to be exempted from this requirement. Stand up paddleboards-both inflatable and rigid-also need stickers.
You can purchase your 2017 invasive species sticker for your boat online.
Learn More About Invasive Mussels
On Wednesday, Feb 22, the Idaho Council of Industry and the Environment is hosting a series of presentations on invasive mussels, including recommendations, 1:30-4:00 pm at the Idaho Statehouse Lincoln Auditorium. Come to learn more!