Friday, March 2, 2012

Spreading the Word to Prevent the Spread of Invasive Species

“How would these invasive species (quagga and zebra mussels) impact the salmon fishery?” 
“It only took 6 months for them to destroy that boat motor?!” 
“The quagga mussel has already spread to lakes in northern Nevada?!!” 

Mussel-encrusted lower boat unit
While a picture may be worth 1,000 words, the invasive species displays at our informational booth at the 2012 Seattle Boat Show produced several thousand concerned comments. Fisheries Division staff of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Office spent the 10 days of the show educating as many recreational and commercial boaters as possible in the prevention and further spread of these aquatic hitchhikers. The booth featured a dramatic quagga mussel-encrusted lower boat unit from Lake Mead (NV) that was rendered inoperable from an accumulation of shells. In addition to the display, the booth provided outreach materials including identification cards, pamphlets, and brochures.

“Well, I don’t have to worry about that, do I? I keep my boat in salt water.” 
“Can’t I just move my boat to salt water to kill them?” 
“How long do I need to dry out my boat in order to kill them?” 

These were some common questions that demonstrate the overall lack of knowledge in the boating community. These questions (and more) were answered at the informational booth through direct discussions and informational handouts. This was the perfect venue for such outreach work, as recreational and professional boaters are a primary vector for these invasive species to reach new bodies of water. While the displays demonstrated the impact of zebra and quagga mussels, the five USFWS employees manning the booth during the show also provided information on additional invasive species including New Zealand mudsnails, European green crabs, nutria, and aquatic plants including milfoil and hydrilla. With the Seattle Boat Show averaging 60,000 attendees per year, we were able to raise awareness about the importance of invasive species identification, reporting, inspection stations, and personal inspections combined with thorough sterilization methods through wash downs and boat/trailer drying. With a more informed public, we now have more tools to prevent further spread of these devastating invaders. 

Providing information about invasive species

Public outreach is currently our best line of defense in this very important battle. Invasive species such as quagga and zebra mussels have been both economically and environmentally costly since their introduction in the United States. Mussel accumulation on commercial and recreational vessels, for example, results in poor fuel efficiency and performance (due to increased weight and friction), as well as increased engine/motor maintenance and expenses. In addition, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually keeping these invasive species at bay where they infest public works systems including water treatment facilities, hydroelectric plants, irrigation pipes, dams, and reservoirs. Their proliferation has also led to decreased food availability for fish and covering of essential fish passage by their razor-sharp shells.

While this event had a strong focus on water vessel transport, it is important to keep in mind the variety of pathways that invasive species take advantage of in order to spread to new areas.  For more information on how you can help prevent the spread of invasive species, please visit the following links: 


National Invasive Species Information Center
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Aquatic Invasive Species
Washington Invasive Species Council
Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers
USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Information


“Don’t Move a Mussel” (YouTube video)
Watercraft Inspection & Decontamination training (YouTube video)


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