Texas Parks and Wildlife officials are hoping boaters remember to do what they can and are legally called to do to prevent the spread of zebra mussels through the state.
After tests for zebra mussels DNA discovered it was present in area waters, boaters were encouraged to clean and drain their boats before moving to other bodies of water or face a legal penalty.
Recent tests have confirmed zebra mussel DNA in lakes Texoma, Ray Roberts, Lewisville, Bridgeport and Bob Sandlin, and though no zebra mussel populations have been confirmed in Lewisville, Bridgeport or Bob Sandlin, the DNA tests do show that the pest is still moving through Texas waters, officials said.
“We know a zebra mussel population exists in Lake Texoma and Ray Roberts,” said Brian Van Zee, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s regional director of Inland Fisheries. “Our district biologists have looked for evidence of zebra mussel populations in lakes Lewisville, Bridgeport and Bob Sandlin since receiving the DNA test results, but none have been found. This is not uncommon, as the test is very sensitive and has been known to show positive results in several lakes where zebra mussels have never been documented.”
Zebra mussels can have a devastating effect on the state’s natural resources. They negatively impact native fish and mussels and foul beaches with their sharp shells. They can wreak havoc for boaters by clinging to boat hulls, reducing the performance of boating equipment and plugging water intakes. Zebra mussels can also clog municipal and industrial water intake structures and pipes, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
There are two forms of zebra mussel: the adult form, which are the visible shells; and a larval form called a veliger, which is found in the water.
“Some of the studies we have done have shown zebra mussels are being moved across the state in this veliger form,” said Dave Terre, chief of fisheries management and research for Texas Parks and Wildlife in Austin. “What that indicates is water is being moved likely because of boater traffic. That’s why it’s important to get people to clean, drain and dry their boats before moving on to another body of water.”
Boaters can visit www.texasinvasives.org online to see a video on how to properly inspect and clean a boat and to learn more about how they can help protect the waters.
Boaters also need to remember that under the TPWD and Texas Penal Codes, possession or transporting of zebra mussels in Texas is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $25 or more than $500 for the first offense. Repeat offenses can be elevated to a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, jail time up to 180 days, or both. If an individual is convicted a third time for this same offense, it becomes a Class A misdemeanor, which is a fine of up to $4,000, jail time not to exceed one year, or both.
“We will continue to monitor water bodies to try and catch infestation early if we can,” Terre said. “Once mussels get established, there is no getting rid of them. That is why it’s important to prevent it before it starts.”
Terre said he knows residents in North Texas have felt the results of the mussel invasion in their water bills due to actions taken to slow the spread of the persistent and destructive mussel.
“There is no reason to think they can’t make their way all the way down the Trinity River Basin,” Terre said. “The future is a little unknown, but we need to make sure we take action to prevent their spread for sure.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and viaTwitter @BjlewisDRC.