By VIRGINIA HOLST/Montana State News
Canyon Ferry and Tiber reservoirs are being infested by mussels, and the state is doing everything it can to prevent them from spreading to other bodies of water.
Aquatic invasive mussels first arrived in Montana in 2016. Other states that have been infested by these pests have incurred millions of dollars in damage to facilities, as well as issues with water and other species health, according to the Montana Mussel Response Website.
“They can change the ecosystem in ways you don’t want the ecosystem to change,” according to Dan Malloy, a research scientist who studies the invasive species. These mussels feed on plankton, a major food source for sportfish, which may be problematic in Montana as the economy largely relies on fishermen.
Boaters and other recreational water users inadvertently transport Zebra and Quagga Mussel larva nearly every time that they don’t properly clean their equipment. Therefore, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) is doing everything it can to prevent the dangers that tag along with these tag-alongs.
These mussels were first introduced to the Great Lakes in 1986, but since then, they have expanded to most of the states and into Canada, according to the Montana Mussel Response website.
To prevent this from spreading, the FWP is taking a number of precautions such as increasing checkpoints and cleaning stations. They have been expecting about 150 new hires, and the project has “overwhelmed not just fisheries, but the whole department,” according Howard Burt, the regional wildlife manager.
Aside from just the actions of FWP employees, the most important component of prevention is public education. The Joint Mussel Response Implementation Team, in partnership with Montana FWP, is hoping to inform the public of ways to avoid spreading these destructive species through open houses taking place statewide in April.
“The events will focus on Montana’s plan to detect, contain, and prevent the spread of invasive mussels and other aquatic invasive species,” according to the FWP website.
The community of water users can help by ensuring they stop at all the mandatory watercraft checkpoints and keep their equipment clean and dry, especially when boating between separate reservoirs and lakes.
– edited by Rania Ampntel Chafint