Guest Post: Tiny invader a cause for big concern

05/31/2011 at 9:35 am 1 comment

Today’s guest post from the Zetetic deals with one of the most pressing ecological issues facing the Pacific Northwest today: The introduction of invasive species.  For more information about invasive species globally visit the USDA National Invasive Species Information Center. Here’s Z.


Tiny striped shells attached to a boat motor. Is it really a Trojan horse?

I’m listening to the radio as I load up my kayak for the first float of the summer. The reporter describes the first zebra mussels found in Oregon, stuck to a boat that is latched to a trailer being hauled behind a truck heading west from Michigan. This little clutch of shellfish is a very long way from home.

Yes, it’s a Trojan horse.

Sam Chan’s shoes explain why. Chan, a watershed health specialist with Oregon Sea Grant Extension, displays his sneakers whenever he needs to make a point about aquatic invasive species.

He had anchored the shoes (unattached to his feet) for a couple of months in California’s Lake Mead. When he retrieved them from the lake, the sneakers were completely encrusted with several generations of tiny, bead-like zebra mussels, one of the most invasive of freshwater alien species in the United States.

Zebra mussels form dense colonies that can encrust surfaces, clog pipes, and really mess with irrigation, hydropower, municipal drinking water, and the life in and around fresh water. Except for these very dead ones decorating Chan’s sneakers, zebra mussels had not yet sneaked into Oregon. Until now.

Native to the Caspian Sea in Eurasia, zebra mussels immigrated Michigan in ship ballast water in the late 1980s. Within less than 3 years, they had colonized all the Great Lakes. They moved steadily east and west, and now are busy clogging the California-Arizona aqueduct system. Oregon’s sharp-eyed invasive species inspection team caught these zebra mussels at the Ashland Port of Entry on I-5 during a voluntary inspection.

People are often inadvertently to blame for introducing these invaders, Chan told me.  Zebra mussels can survive up to week out of water. Attached to boats, they can be easily towed a long way and launched into unifested waters. “That boater who volunteered for inspection deserves a medal,” Chan said.

So, now I’ve got my Oregon Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention permit attached to the bow of my kayak. The program is helping to fund aquatic invasive species prevention, including the sharp-eyed inspectors in Ashland.  We all need to keep an eye out for this Trojan horse.

Entry filed under: Current Events, Pests and Pest Control, Uncategorized.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Don  |  06/01/2011 at 3:31 am

    Anyone who follows the history of ballast water should realize that after Senator Boxer killed legislation in 2008 passed in the House 395-7, to protect us from ballast water our politicians have been caving in to foreign shipping which constitutes the majority of flag ships in US waters. They currently have discussions going on in Congress concerning the economic problems this would create for shipping. California’s action reversing their stance for tough regulations despite Senator Boxers claim that the legislation she killed for the whole country was not strong enough, points out the political game they are playing with American health an environment. Not a single piece of new legislation has been introduced in Congress by either party since, and the EPA had to be sued to even address the idea of creating a standard. Our President as commander and chief, three years after allegedly supporting congressional legislation in 2008 has done nothing but allow a continuous delay on Coast Guard standards, the latest being a delay to “correlate” ( after the next presidential election) with a yet undeveloped EPA standard. New York’s governor, as attorney general developed their purposed tough standards and has now delayed them in conjunction. It is about our dependence on foreign manufactured products to bolster our economy, and sadly although America was capable of putting a man on the moon, because shipping interest say that: ” technology is not out there ” significant action will probably never be taken. What ever weak action is taken environmentalist will have to accept and new shipping investments to develop a fix for the problem will be minimal as they know the political will is gone the same as many of the politicians who did care, Granholm, Schwarzenegger, Patterson, Strickland, Oberstar, etc. Interesting with the political help of our President, Senator Boxer the person responsible for killing national ballast water legislation was reelected. Not surprising since the issue of ballast water is never public-ally broad cast by the news media, despite the severe affects the way it is handled will affect both, Americans and the worlds health and environment forever. The ironic travesty will be the way some who claim to care about environmental stewardship along with the shipping interest will portray weak action with respect and decorum as a great achievement, further destroying a chance for future significant actions. Shipping has won as this problem is not even close to being solved.


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