California agencies fighting the spread of invasive quagga and zebra mussels remind boaters to remain vigilant over the three-day Labor Day weekend.
People who launch vessels at any body of water are subject to watercraft inspections and are encouraged to clean, drain and dry their motorized and non-motorized boats, including personal watercraft, and any equipment that comes into contact with the water before and after recreating at a waterway.
Quagga and zebra mussels, non-native freshwater mussels native to Eurasia, multiply quickly and encrust watercraft and infrastructure, and compete for food with native and sport fish species. These mussels can be spread from one body of water to another attached to nearly anything that has been in an infested waterbody, or via standing water from an infested waterbody entrapped in boat engines, bilges, live-wells and buckets.
To ensure that watercraft is clean, drained and dry, many local agencies are conducting boat inspections. CDFW has posted a list of these inspections on its website (www.wildlife.ca.gov/mussels) along with additional information about the invasive mussels and what people can do to help prevent their spread in California. Boaters should call ahead to check for restrictions prior to visiting their destination.
Take the following steps before traveling to a waterbody to prevent spreading invasive mussels, to improve your inspection experience and to safeguard California waterways:
- CLEAN — inspect exposed surfaces and remove all plants and organisms,
- DRAIN — all water, including water contained in lower outboard units, live-wells, and bait buckets, and
- DRY — allow the watercraft to thoroughly dry between launches. Watercraft should be kept dry for at least five days in warm weather and up to 30 days in cool weather.
CDFW has developed a brief video demonstrating the ease of implementing the clean, drain and dry prevention method, which can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaeAIPLoK-k. In addition, a detailed guide to cleaning vessels of invasive mussels is available on the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) at www.dbw.parks.ca.gov/quagga.
Travelers are also advised to be prepared for inspections at California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Border Protection Stations. Over the past eight years, more than one million watercraft entering the state have been inspected at the Border Protection Stations. Inspections, which can also be conducted by CDFW and California State Parks, include a check of boats and personal watercraft, as well as trailers and all onboard items. Contaminated vessels and equipment are subject to quarantine or impoundment.
Quagga mussels were first detected in the Colorado River system in January 2007 and were later found in San Diego and Riverside counties. They are now known to be in 29 waters in California, all in Southern California. Zebra mussels were discovered in San Justo Reservoir in San Benito County in January 2008.
Both species can attach to and damage virtually any submerged surface. They can:
- Ruin a boat engine by blocking the cooling system and causing it to overheat
- Jam a boat’s steering equipment, putting occupants and others at risk
- Require frequent scraping and repainting of boat hulls
- Colonize all underwater substrates such as boat ramps, docks, lines and other underwater surfaces, causing them to require constant cleaning
- Cost the owners of these items a lot of money
A multi-agency effort that includes CDFW, DBW, California Department of Water Resources, and CDFA has been leading an outreach campaign to alert the public to the quagga and zebra mussel threats. A toll-free hotline at 1-866-440-9530 is available for those seeking information on quagga or zebra mussels.