"Don't move a mussel" during Labor Day weekend

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MDC) - With Labor Day coming up, the Missouri Department of Conservation is urging boaters and anglers to be aware of the danger that invasive aquatic plants and animals pose for Show-Me State waters and take measures to prevent their spread.

Invasive Species Coordinator Tim Banek said zebra mussel larvae, known as velligers, were found in recent surveys of microscopic plants and animals at Pomme de Terre Lake in southwest Missouri. He said that as adults, the fingernail-sized invaders could interfere with the established food chain in Missouri lakes and streams, making them less productive for sport fish and replacing native animals.

"We don't know exactly what changes might occur, but other areas where zebra mussels have taken hold have experienced ecological changes that were bad for fishing and tourism," said Banek. "Missourians can avoid spreading zebra mussels with some reasonably simple precautions."

Banek urged the thousands of Missourians who will be out fishing and boating during the long Labor Day weekend to take the following precautions:

· Inspect submerged portions of boats for adult zebra mussels after each use. Adults are fingernail sized with dark and light stripes. Small zebra mussels give hard surfaces a sandpapery feel.

· Check trailers, ropes, minnow buckets and anything else that was in the water. Report any suspected zebra mussels to the nearest Conservation Department office.

· Remove suspected zebra mussels, along with vegetation or other material clinging to boats and trailers and put it in a trash container.

· Rinse boat bilges, trailers, motor drive units and live wells with water at least 104 degrees if live zebra mussels are found, or if your craft has been in waters known to be infested with zebra mussels. Most commercial car washes meet this standard. Allow boats and other equipment to dry in the sun at least five days before re-launching.

Anglers have a special role to play in preventing the spread of other invasive aquatic plants and animals, such as the rusty crayfish and Asian carp. One of the best things anglers can do is dispose of live bait properly. Unused bait should be placed in trash bags and deposited in trash receptacles away from water. Never release unused bait - whether fish, worms, crayfish or anything else - into lakes or streams unless it came from the same water.

Boaters can prevent invasive plants and animals from hitching a ride by draining all water from bilges and live wells and removing vegetation and other trash from boats and trailers when they move them from one body of water to another.

More information about invasive aquatic species prevention is available at invasivespeciesinfo.gov/aquatics/main.shtml.