SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, DWR, sent warnings via Twitter and Facebook the invasive zebra mussel has been found in moss balls sold in Utah pet stores.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a zebra mussel is a fingernail size mollusk that is native to the fresh waters of Eurasia. Their name comes from the zigzagged shape stripes on the shell.
Investigators suspect the creature arrived in the Great Lakes area in the 1980s and spread from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi drainage. USGS reports they have been found in Texas, Colorado, Nevada, and now Utah.
Drew Cushing, the Aquatic Section Chief of Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources, says, “A problem has been discovered with moss balls that people use in Aquariums containing the zebra mussel, we are working with pet stores, stores that retail aquarium products to get the products off the shelves. The moss balls are available online and can be purchased through companies like Amazon. We have been working to come up with a plan for people who have purchased the moss balls to dispose of them safely.”
In two tweets sent out, the agency warns that if you have purchased “Betta Buddy” branded marimo moss balls recently, you should boil them for two minutes or freeze them until solid, then dispose of them in the trash.
The information is also posted on Facebook.
The USGS also lists other ways to control the mollusk:
The website states: “Catching and transporting zebra mussels for use as bait, food, and aquarium pets is highly discouraged.”
As with the quagga mussel boat hygiene is also recommended:
- Wash your boat off with warm, soapy water if possible
- Do not transport water from live wells and bait buckets from one water body to another; empty them onto land when possible and dispose of leftover bait in the trash. Most often the baitfish are not native to that water, just like the zebra mussels.
The concern with the mussels is if they spread in Utah waters they can cause many problems, like clogging the water supplies, and infrastructure, creating issues with hydropower generation, and damaging boat engines.
Cushing says, “This is a developing situation at a national, regional and state level.”
He adds, “Invasive species are becoming a real problem in Utah, especially if people put aquatic creatures in the waterways. It is costing hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to keep the waterways clean. There are teams of people who are trying to help. We are also coordinating with every state the Colorado River runs through to try and protect the areas from the ecosystem damage invasive species cause.”