Since 1988, zebra mussels have been spreading rapidly through the Great Lakes, clogging water pipes and smothering fish spawning grounds. These black and white striped molluscs consume large quantities of plankton - a vital link in the food web of any aquatic habitat. Unfortunately, zebra mussels have few natural enemies in Canada, and there is no known environmentally safe way to get rid of them.
Recent reports show that this aquatic menace is starting to spread into other waterways, but all of us, including urban dwellers, can take steps to help curb the invasion. Slowing the spread of zebra mussels now will buy time for scientists who are looking for safe and effective ways to control them.
Use the following checklist to do your part in the battle against zebra mussels:
• Be informed. Tell others about the dangers of these mollusc invaders.
• Clean any boat thoroughly before moving it from an infested waterway to another body of water.
• If you see zebra mussels on your boat, remove them with a paint scraper before leaving the vicinity of the infested waterway. Be careful: Zebra mussel shells are sharp and can cut you.
• If it's hot and dry, leave your boat out of water for two or three days. The mussels will die. Some may drop off; some may need scraping. Dispose of them in a garbage container or dump them a good distance away from sewers or waterways.
• Never use Great Lakes water to transport live bait, and never transfer Great Lakes water to another body of water.
• If you're already inland and have a boat or other equipment that may contain Great Lakes water, clean the equipment and dump the water on dry land, well away from any water supply.