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Labor Day Weekend boaters can help protect California’s waterways from aquatic invasive mussels

Contact:  Gloria Sandoval (916) 651-5692
cell (916) 715-1657
Steve Lyle (916) 654-0462
Roy Stearns (916) 654-2270
Pete Weisser (916) 653-3350
Dana Michaels (916) 322-2420

September 1, 2009

SACRAMENTO - The California interagency task force working to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive mussels urges boaters to be especially diligent this holiday weekend. Anyone who visits a lake or reservoir must clean, drain and dry their boats, personal watercraft or any other equipment that comes in contact with the water, both before they arrive and as they are leaving a waterway.

“Quagga and Zebra mussels are a serious threat to our aquatic environment and fisheries,” said Donald Koch, Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFG). “It’s crucial that everyone who uses public waters takes the time to make sure they’re not transporting these mussels. It only takes a few mussels to contaminate an entire waterway and destroy fisheries.”

Quagga and Zebra mussels are non-native, fast-reproducing invasive species that can cause severe problems for boaters and water enthusiasts. They spread from one body of water to another by “hitchhiking” on boats and other equipment. Water in boat engines, bilges, live wells and buckets can carry tiny mussel larvae (called veligers) to other waterways, as well.

“Trailered boats are one avenue for the spread of Quagga mussels and many other aquatic invasive species,” said Raynor Tsuneyoshi, Director of the Department of Boating and Waterways. “About 85 percent of boaters trailer their boats, so it is very important to clean, drain and dry vessels.”

To help prevent the spread of mussels, boaters should inspect all exposed surfaces, wash boat hulls thoroughly, remove all plants from the boat and trailer, drain all water, including lower outboard units, clean and dry live-wells and bait buckets and dispose of baitfish in the trash. 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 critical to the state’s efforts to safeguard boats and preserve our fisheries.  

An excellent guide to cleaning vessels of invasive mussels is available on the Web at www.dbw.ca.gov/PDF/BoatingQuaggaGuide.pdf.

Travelers are also advised to contact their destination before leaving home, to learn what restrictions or inspection requirements are in place. Boaters entering the state should be prepared for inspections at California Department of Food and Agriculture Border Protection Stations. Inspections, which can also be conducted by DFG and the Department of Parks and Recreation, include not only a check of boats and personal watercraft, but also trailers and items that might be onboard. Contaminated vessels and equipment are subject to quarantine or impoundment.

Quagga mussels were first detected in the Colorado River system in January 2007 and were later found in San Diego and Riverside counties by state and local water agencies. They are now known to be in 21 California waters. Zebra mussels were discovered in San Justo Reservoir in San Benito County in January 2008.

Both mollusks can attach to and damage almost any submerged surface. They can:

  • ruin a boat engine by blocking the cooling system and causing it to overheat;
  • increase drag on the bottom of a boat, reducing speed and wasting fuel;
  • jam a boat’s steering equipment, putting occupants at risk;
  • require frequent scraping and repainting of boat hulls;
  • colonize all underwater substrates such as boat ramps, docks, lines and other underwater surfaces, requiring constant cleaning;
  • cost the owners of these items a great deal of money.
A toll-free hotline has been established for anyone involved in activities on lakes and rivers seeking information on the invasive and destructive Quagga or Zebra mussels at 1-866-440-9530.

For more information about Quagga/Zebra mussels, the state’s response activities and what you can do to help prevent their spread in California, please visit the DFG Web site at www.dfg.ca.gov/invasives/quaggamussel.