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GLIN==> Press Release: 20 Years after Zebra Mussel Invasion, U.S. and Canada Remain at Risk of Aquatic Invasions

Great Lakes United * National Wildlife Federation * Ontario Federation of Hunters and Anglers


20 Years after Zebra Mussel Invasion, United States, Canada Remain

at Risk of Aquatic Invasions


Seaway opening shines spotlight on need to halt invasive species from foreign ocean-going vessels


ANN ARBOR, MICH. (March 19, 2008) – Twenty years after the discovery of the zebra mussel—one of the most notorious aquatic invasive species to enter North America—conservationists accused the U.S. and Canadian governments of failing to protect their citizens from the economic and environmental damage caused by non-native species.


“Millions of citizens are paying the price of invasive species like the zebra mussel because the U.S. and Canadian governments have neglected the problem for 20 years,” said Jennifer Nalbone, campaign director for aquatic invasive species and navigation for Great Lakes United. “When we failed to stop the zebra mussel, we also failed to close the door it came through. It’s time to tackle this problem because it’s only getting worse and the solutions are getting more costly.”


The majority of aquatic invasive species—including the zebra mussel—enter U.S. and Canadian waters via ballast water discharge of ocean-going vessels.


“Congress is on the verge of finally enacting a law to stop ballast water discharges of invasive species into the nation’s waters,” said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation. “They need to move full steam ahead. If anybody sinks this effort, all of our nation’s great waters will suffer devastating and irreversible damage.”


Hitchhiking on an ocean-going commercial vessel, the zebra mussel has been one of the most destructive invasive species to invade North America. It is responsible for clogging municipal, power plant and industry water supply systems. It causes odor and taste problems in drinking water; fouls beaches, parks and recreational areas; disrupts aquatic food chains; damages engines and hulls in recreational boats; and contributes to botulism outbreaks, bird die-offs and the resurgence of the oxygen-depleted Lake Erie dead zone.


First discovered in Lake St. Clair in 1988, the zebra mussel has spread throughout the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. It can be found in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, as well as the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec


“The threat aquatic invasive species pose to people and wildlife demands a solution,” said Francine MacDonald, Invasive Species/Aquatics Biologist with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. “The zebra mussel is a textbook example of how invasive species are a threat to our economy and way of life. It’s time that the Canadian and U.S. governments act to stop further invasions.”


Conservationists are drawing attention to the issue on the eve of the opening of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway. Every spring when the Seaway reopens without stringent federal regulations in place, it allows international commercial vessels--and the invasive species they carry--access into the North American heartland. The annual Seaway opening brings attention to the risk associated with international trade that occurs every day on the East Coast and West Coast from the Chesapeake Bay to Puget Sound and the San Francisco bay.


The groups are calling for federal action on both sides of the border to mandate international vessels to meet a protective ballast water discharge standard and ensure they are no longer the predominant source of new aquatic invasions.


Warnings about the zebra mussel date back to 1893—almost 100 years before the zebra mussel entered North America. A study commissioned for the Canadian government in 1981 sounded the alarm that international ships were likely to bring the invader into U.S. and Canadian waters unless preventative action was taken. It wasn’t.


Researcher Gerald Mackie, professor emeritus, University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada, identified the first zebra mussel in North America. Said Mackie: “It’s mind-boggling to think that two decades after first discovering the zebra mussel and witnessing the devastation that it has caused, federal leaders have done little to curb future invasions. We can do better. We have solutions. It’s time that we use them.”


For fact sheets, timelines, new photos of the first zebra mussel, and stories and contacts from across the U.S. and Canada, visit: www.glu.org  





Jennifer Nalbone, Great Lakes United, 716-213-0408, jen@glu.org

Gerald Mackie, Professor Emeritus, University of Guelph, 519-767-6684, gerry.mackie@sympatico.ca

Francine MacDonald, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (705) 748-6324 x 238, francinem@ofah.org

Andy Buchsbaum, National Wildlife Federation, 734-887-7100, buchsbaum@nwf.org

Brent Gibson, Great Lakes United, (613) 867-9861, bgibson@glu.org

Jordan Lubetkin, National Wildlife Federation, (734) 887-7109, lubetkin@nwf.org