BAXTER COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Biologists with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission intercepted a boat carrying hundreds of invasive mussels before it could be launched at Lake Norfork.
According to a Facebook post by the AGFC, the boat had been housed in a marina slip at Bull Shoals. The new owner wished to have it moved to Lake Norfork in Baxter County.
The boat transport service and marina employees tasked with moving the boat into a new slip noticed the hull, motor and bilge area were covered with zebra mussels.
"They called us to come out and inspect it," AGFC district fisheries supervisor Jeremy Risley said.
According to Arkansas Game and Fish, Bull Shoals has been infested with zebra mussels since 2007 and there was a large increase in population of the species in 2014 and 2015. However, there have been no confirmed sightings of the species in Lake Norfork, Table Rock Lake or Beaver Lake.
Zebra mussels spawn quickly though, making the keen eyes of the marina and boat transport service employees so important.
"One adult female can produce between 10,000 and 50,000 larvae each time it spawns," the post stated. "The species can spawn up to 5 times per year."
It's believed most of the mussels on the boat were adults. Some were as large as two inches.
"It is still unclear how zebra mussel infestations will impact the overall health of the fishery, but they can cause native mussel populations to decline and cause serious damage to water intake pipes and other equipment left in the water," the post said.
The U.S. Department of State estimated in 2009 that the total cost in the United States of zebra mussel infestation form 2010 to 2020 at $3.1 billion.
"I really want to say thank you to the men who spotted the zebra mussels and called them in," Risley said. "Any time you see something like this that doesn't look right, it's always best to ask for help to make sure you're doing the right thing."
As for the intercepted boat, AGFC said it must be inspected before they go back into the water.
"All zebra mussels will be removed from the boat and the vessel will require power washing and a 30-day drying period and final inspection before the boat can be launched into Norfork Lake," the post said.
Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.