Texas boaters encouraged to thoroughly clean equipment to stop spread of zebra mussels

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Many are planning to undock their boats and hit the water this Memorial Day Weekend. A day in the sun and on the waves is just what many Texans need after what seemed like months of bad weather.

However, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) wants to urge all beach-goers to wash and clean their water equipment to stem the spread of one of Central Texas’ most annoying pests, the zebra mussel.

READ MORE: Explosion in zebra mussel population worries Lake Travis divers

The TPWD is asking everyone heading to the lake this weekend to thoroughly clean, drain and dry their boats, paddlers or other equipment that makes its way out onto the water. This is to stop the already widespread invasive species the zebra mussel from making its way to new locations. 

“Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kick-off to boating season in Texas, and while we want everyone to have a great time we also want them to avoid giving free rides to invasive species when they travel to new lakes,” said the TPWD Inland Fisheries Regional Director Brian Van Zee. “The best way to help keep Texas lakes fun for everyone and prevent the spread of destructive invasive species is to clean, drain and dry your boats and equipment — every time.”

So far in May 2019, 15 Texas lakes are infested with an established and reproducing population of zebra mussels. The newest lakes on this list include Lake Walter E. Long, Lake Granger and Lake Dunlap where the presence of zebra mussels have been detected more than once. On Lake Placid, Zebra Mussels have only been detected once.

Invasive species like zebra mussels and giant salvinia, which has been found in 18 Texas lakes, can detract from the experience on Texas waters and can seriously damage aquatic ecosystems. 

READ MORE: City of Austin says Zebra mussels to blame for downtown’s smelly water

Kayaks, paddle boards, wet suits and other equipment that has been used in the water should be cleaned and dried thoroughly because microscopic zebra mussel larvae can live on wet surfaces for up to three weeks. 

Boats stored in zebra mussels infested lakes are most likely to spread them to other bodies of water. Zebra mussels colonize on motors, hulls and propellors and can be very difficult to detect in some spots.  

“Most of the lakes that received upgraded classifications are downstream of infested reservoirs, so the likelihood that zebra mussel larvae would disperse and invade them was high,” Van Zee said. “But boaters still need to be extremely diligent about cleaning, draining and drying, because only boats, barges, and other equipment can transport zebra mussels upstream or to new river basins.”

TWPD is constantly monitoring Texas lakes for the spread of these species. They have created a new website that helps marinas and boat owners learn how to properly decontaminate their equipment and inspect them before moving to a new spot.

Anyone who finds zebra mussels in a lake where they haven’t been seen before is encouraged to call the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at (512) 389-4848 or by emailing photos and location information toaquaticinvasives@tpwd.texas.gov.

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