Quagga and Zebra mussels may be the size of a human fingernail, but they pose a very large threat to Californias waterways.
In a letter to 117 business owners, the California Quagga/Zebra mussels taskforce, comprised of nearly a dozen state and federal agencies, has asked marina owners and watercraft refueling stations to stay vigilant over this Independence Day holiday weekend and encourage their patrons to practice healthy boating practices.
Californias first line of defense is prevention. Boater awareness and action are key to preventing spread of these mussels, which can become attached to boats and other equipment, said Susan Ellis, Department of Fish and Games statewide coordinator of invasive species. With their ability to harm waterways and water resources, Quagga and Zebra mussels are not to be taken lightly. They pose a substantial threat in California and it is critical to keep them from being moved to other state waterways.
Boaters are being asked to inspect all exposed surfaces, wash boat hulls thoroughly, remove all plants from the boat and trailer, clean and dry live-wells and bait buckets, dispose of baitfish in the trash and drain all water-including that in lower outboard units. Watercraft should be kept dry for at least five days in warm weather and up to 30 days in cool weather between launches in different bodies of fresh water. These measures are essential to safeguard boats and preserve waterways.
During the holiday weekend, boaters may be subject to boat inspections by a number of natural resources agencies. Boat owners who fail to follow the rules on inspections will be turned away. If the vessel carries the mussels, the owners could have their vessel quarantined.
Quagga and Zebra mussels wreak havoc on the environment by disrupting the natural food chain and releasing toxins that affect other aquatic species. The mussels frequently settle in massive colonies that can block water intake and threaten municipal water supply, agricultural irrigation and power plant operations.
The taskforce hopes to raise public awareness of the damages caused by the non-native aquatic mollusks. The letter called for assistance from businesses that service the recreational boating industry, saying their support was vital to prevent further spread. Free posters for the California Dont Move a Mussel campaign were included with the letter. In addition, the Invasive Mussel Guidebook provides strategies for local involvement in the Quagga and Zebra mussel response: www.resources.ca.gov/quagga/docs/QUAGGA_GUIDEBOOK.pdf.
The taskforce is comprised of California departments of Fish and Game, Water Resources, Parks and Recreation, Boating and Waterways, and Food and Agriculture. Federal partners include U.S. Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation.
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