Minnesota DNR to test zebra mussels control solution

Zebramussels_USDAgov_flickr-0812

Photo Credit: USDAgov - Flickr

August 21, 2012
Filed under Features, Top Stories

Beginning Aug. 15, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ invasive species program, along with the U.S. Geological Survey and the New York State Museum’s Field Research laboratory, will begin testing a new environmentally safe means to control the spread of zebra mussels in Minnesota lakes.

Zequanox is a natural microbe approved by the Environmental Protection Agency to prevent zebra and quagga mussels from attaching to industrial and other closed water systems, such as power plant pipes. It is composed of dead cells, which the zebra mussel sees as a food source. Once consumed, Zequanox (pseudomonas fluorescent) destroys the mussel’s digestive system.

The Minnesota DNR, with help from a research grant funded by the EPA’s Great Lakes Resoration Initiative, will be conducting research at Lake Carlos near Alexandria, Minn., to determine the efficacy of the microbe against mussels in open waters.

Primarily, the DNR is attempting to determine if the product will reduce the impact of zebra mussels on native mussels. In the past, attempts by the USGS and the DNR to introduce endangered, native species to these lakes have been harmed by the zebra mussel. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service commonly uses cages to introduce native mussels, but zebra mussels have been attaching to the cages, cutting off water flow to the native mussels inside.

“The main objective of this research is to evaluate the potential of Zequanox to reduce the impacts of zebra mussels on native mussels,” said Nathan Olson, DNR aquatic invasive species specialist, in a statement last week. “In addition, this research is the first step to determine the potential of Zequanox to treat isolated, localized areas such as those around docks and boatlifts in waters where zebra mussels are newly discovered.”

One of the major benefits of Zequanox is that it does not kill other species of fish or mussels in open water like copper and chlorine based chemicals, Olson said in an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

On Aug. 15, the USGS and Minnesota DNR removed cages seeded with zebra mussels from Lake Carlos and placed them inside a research trailer on-sight, exposing the mussels to Zequanox before placing them back in the lake. These cages will remain in the lake for four weeks before they will be removed and the effectiveness of the treatment determined.

Zebra mussels, native to Eastern Europe and Western Russia, were originally brought over to the Great Lakes via the ballast water of freighters and were discovered in the Great Lakes in 1988. They have since been a curse for boaters, fishers and swimmers, attaching to motors and clogging cooling areas, increasing the growth of vegetation and, in large numbers over large areas, impacting the food chain and reducing food for larval fish.

Other methods of controlling the spread of invasive species have sparked heated debates in Minnesota, with boaters and anglers pushing back against government desperate to cull the zebra mussels. Boaters are facing fines across Minnesota for failing to inspect their boats for aquatic hitchhikers.

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