Zebra mussels invade Lake Ashtabula

State News

Image: AP

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has found zebra mussels in Lake Ashtabula in eastern North Dakota.

The invasive species is known for reproducing rapidly and in great numbers. They attach themselves to just about anything they can latch onto, clog intake pipes and prevent water treatment and electrical generating plants from drawing water.

Removing large numbers of zebra mussels to ensure adequate water flow can be labor-intensive and costly.

According to the Game and Fish Department, an angler last week discovered a suspected zebra mussel and turned it in to the department’s aquatic nuisance species coordinator.

After confirming it was an adult zebra mussel, the department inspected other areas around Lake Ashtabula and discovered well-established populations of zebra mussels of various ages throughout the lake.

Game and Fish says it’s unknown how the small, sharp-shelled mussels were introduced into Lake Ashtabula, and there is no known method to completely rid a lake of the species.    

“This situation shows how important it is for boaters, anglers, swimmers and skiers to be aware of aquatic nuisance species and to take precautions to prevent their spread,” says Game and Fish aquatic nuisance species coordinator Jessica Howell. “Everyone who uses this lake now plays a key role in stemming the spread of these mussels to uninfested waters.”

Because of the new finding, the Game and Fish Department has classified Lake Ashtabula, and the Sheyenne River downstream all the way to the Red River, as a “Class I ANS infested water.”

ANS stands for “Aquatic Nuisance Species.”

The classification means emergency rules go into effect to prohibit the movement of water away from the lake and river, including water used for transferring bait. Notices will be posted at lake access sites and popular shore-fishing spots along the river.

The Red River is the state’s only other Class I ANS water. Adult zebra mussels were discovered in the Red in 2015.

Prevention is the best way to avoid spreading ANS, Howell says, as they often travel by “hitchhiking” with unsuspecting lake-goers.

“Always clean, drain and dry boats and other equipment before using another lake,” she warns. “Also, don’t transfer lake water or live fish to another body of water. This can help stop the spread of not only zebra mussels, but most aquatic nuisance species that may be present.”  

For more information about aquatic nuisance species in North Dakota, options for disinfection, or to report a possible ANS, visit https://gf.nd.gov/ans.

Zebra mussels are native to the Black and Caspian seas of western Asia and eastern Europe, and were spread around the world in the ballast water of cargo ships.

They were first discovered in the United States in Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River in 1988, and quickly spread throughout the Great Lakes and other rivers including the Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, Arkansas and Hudson.

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