Zebra mussels, an invasive species that can damage the ecology of freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers, have been found in Delta Lake, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced.
Because the lake supplies water to the Rome Fish Hatchery, the DEC said it will use fish from the hatchery only in lakes already inhabited by zebra mussels. In a news release issued Friday evening, the DEC said it is developing strategies to limit spread of the invasive mussels and to ensure the hatchery returns to normal production.
The Rome hatchery is one of the DEC’s largest, with annual production of nearly 60,000 pounds of brook, rainbow and brown trout. It and the other dozen state hatcheries are used to stock game fish across the state.
“DEC’s Rome Fish Hatchery plays a vital role in the management New York State’s fisheries and we are taking this aquatic invasive discovery very seriously,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in the statement. “DEC will provide all the necessary resources to address this problem and employ solutions to ensure the hatchery will operate free of zebra mussels in the future.”
Zebra mussels negatively impact ecosystems in many ways, including filtering out algae that native species need for food and attaching to and incapacitating native mussels.
Zebra mussels are a fingernail-sized mollusk native to fresh waters in Eurasia. Their name comes from the dark, zig-zagged stripes on each shell. It is believed that zebra mussels arrived in the Great Lakes in the 1980s via ballast water discharged by large ships from Europe.
The mussels have been in New York since the 1990s. In the Finger Lakes, their filtering increased water clarity, which in turn increases availability of sunlight and makes more of the nutrient phosphorus available, which encourages growth of aquatic plants. Their sharp-edged shells also can create hazards for swimmers and waders, both in the water and when they wash up on beaches, and cover lake bottoms needed by spawning fish. They can also clog water intake equipment on lakes and rivers used for public water supplies.
One of the main ways invasive water species like zebra mussels spread is on recreational boats. The DEC advises boaters and anglers to check boats, trailers, and other fishing and boating equipment for any plants or animals that may be clinging to it, including checking bunks, rollers, trim tabs and other attachment points on boats and trailers. For more information, visit DEC’s website at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/48221.html.