We can stop the spread of invasive mussels. If we fail, one of the reasons may be the lack of cooperation from boaters with an opinion like Scott Redmond, whose pessimistic letter to the editor was published in the June 6 issue of the Beacon.
Invasive mussels were discovered in Minnesota waters in 1989, almost 30 years ago. That state began a program of inspections, education and quarantine to fight the spread of the mussels. Today less than 3 percent of Minnesota’s 11,000 lakes are infested. If birds and dogs spread mussels, almost all of Minnesota’s lakes would be infested. We don’t know exactly why water-loving animals don’t carry mussels or their microscopic lava to other water bodies, but they apparently don’t. Mussels do spread downstream with currents, but we, people, are the main vector for the spread of invasive species.
It’s true that the distribution of species around the world is increasing and sometime in the future, maybe hundreds or thousands of years from now, all species will likely have been introduced everywhere even though they all won’t become established. It’s also true that we are making technological advances every year that will allow us to manage the impacts of invasive species better in the future.
Not all introductions of invasive mussels result in an established population. If we inspect and clean boats and water equipment traveling into and around our state we can reduce the chance of a new introduction and prevent invasive mussels from ever establishing in new lakes. It has worked in Minnesota and It can work here. If invasive mussels infest Flathead Lake and the Columbia River system the costs to all of us will be huge, hundreds of times greater than the costs of prevention.
You can help by following the practice of making sure your boat, trailer, and things you use in the water are clean, drained and dry before moving from one water body to another. Please get educated and share the message with all your friends and family too.
Steve Rosso lives in Lakeside.