Hitchhiking Zebra Mussel Stopped by Maryland Inspection

Hitchhiking Zebra Mussel Stopped by Maryland Inspection
Zebra mussel (Maryland DNR image)

The Maryland wildlife agency said evidence of zebra mussels was found on a ski boat from New York.

A voluntary inspection boat inspection program in Maryland prevented the potential introduction of zebra mussels into a state park lake by a ski boat that was last in the water in New York.

According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, it was the second consecutive year Deep Creek Lake State Park launch stewards successfully interdicted zebra mussels before they entered Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County on July 9.

Zebra mussel (Maryland DNR image)

The agency said the contaminated boat was last used during the Fourth of July holiday on Otisco Lake, one of the Finger Lakes near Syracuse, N.Y. The U.S. Geological Survey has confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in that lake.

In a news release, the DNR said a launch steward was conducting the inspection of an inboard ski boat when he came across what appeared to be a zebra mussel in a fragment of milfoil found in the boat's intake system. The owner of the boat was informed of the discovery and was asked to throughly clean the boat before entering the lake, which he did.

The samples were later analyzed and examined by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which confirmed the presence of zebra mussels.

"Aquatic invasive species are an ever-present threat to Maryland's vast network of waterways, be it our bays, lakes, streams or rivers," Resource Assessment Service Director Bruce Michael said in the news release.

Maryland DNR image

"These invasive hitchhikers can impair economically-important and environmentally-sensitive ecosystems, such as Deep Creek Lake. The Launch Steward program worked well but it is ultimately everyone's responsibility to care for the environment by thoroughly cleaning and drying boats, gear and trailers before they enter the water."

Zebra mussels are small, filter-feeding bivalves native to the Black and Caspian seas that were introduced into the Great Lakes in the mid-1980s. Since then the freshwater species has spread throughout much of the United States, including Maryland. The spread of zebra mussels has caused profound economic and environmental damage as they colonize hard surfaces in high densities affecting industrial equipment, altering ecosystems and habitat.

The Deep Creek Lake Launch Steward program, established in 2014, is funded by the Maryland Park Service and is done in partnership with the Garrett College Natural Resources and Wildlife Technology program. It aims to increase public awareness of aquatic invasive species and acts to prevent the introduction of invasive species through voluntary inspections of boats and trailers.

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