Water sports are a great way to stay fit and to spend time outdoors with friends, but if you aren’t careful, you could inadvertently be helping invasive species colonize a new waterway. Zebra mollusks are common in North America and may be catching a ride on the bottom of your boat or wakeboard. Here are some ways that you can help keep our waterways clear.
Zebra Mussels: Invasive Mollusks with Muscle
An invasive species is a non-native species that takes up the resources of local wildlife. One of the most common in the Americas is the zebra mussel, which are native to eastern Europe but arrived in the Americas on the bottoms of seafaring ships. Hardy mollusks, zebra mussels will catch a ride with nearly anyone, from scientific research equipment to scuba diving gear.
“But why are mussels bad for ballast systems?”
Zebra mussel hitchhikers can clog the water intake of your ballast system, which can significantly reduce its efficacy. Some mussels can also make their way into pipes and motors. Nothing’s worse than having your wakesurfing trip come to a grinding halt because the boat isn’t functioning properly.
What you Can Do
Whether you’ve spent a few hours wakeboarding or had your boat in the lake all summer, always make sure that you drain the water from your motor before you call it a day. You’ll also want to inspect all of your equipment for mollusks before you go. Even if you’ve been involved in high-speed, high-intensity water sports all day, you never know where mussels may have lodged themselves. To stop the spread of zebra mussels, you can even invest in an eco-conscious invasive species filter or paint the bottom of your boat with anti-fouling paint. As always, your boat and equipment should dry in the sun for two days after washing before going back in the water.
Refer to the USDA’s list of invasive species so that you know what to look for before you go out on the water. Always identify an aquatic species before deciding what to do with it. By maintaining good habits, you can keep our waterways clean and clear.