Zebra mussels the focus of Alaska Invasive Species Awareness Week

The federal agency has ramped up its focus on dreissenid mussels — commonly known as Zebra Mussels.
Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 9:18 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s Alaska Invasive Species Awareness Week, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials held a public event at Cabela’s on Friday to demonstrate how boaters and anglers can help prevent the spread of invasive species.

The federal agency has ramped up its focus on dreissenid mussels — commonly known as Zebra Mussels. The invasive species causes problems by attaching to infrastructure, clogging water pipes, and changing the marine environment they’re in.

In other parts of the country like the Great Lakes, they’ve dealt with a Zebra Mussel problem that has cost them $500 million annually, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

“As mussels have moved west from the Great Lakes they’re starting to move north as well,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist Mike Buntjer.

Buntjer is the project leader for the Watercraft Inspection and Decontamination (WID) station at the Alaska-Canada border, which began running full-time in 2021. The WID hopes to catch any boat or watercraft carrying invasive species before they come into Alaska.

“We did notice a boat that came up three weeks ago just before the Memorial Day weekend that was infested with Zebra Mussels so they appeared to be dead,” Buntjer said. “But we went ahead and decontaminated the boat anyway. It was a pontoon boat headed to Big Lake.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologists ask watercraft owners to clean their boats after they’re taken out of the water, focusing on what was under the waterline and using a pressure washer to remove any possible invasive species, followed by hot water.

“Individually we can’t do much, but collectively we can do a lot more,” Buntjer. “What we want to do is make the public more aware so that they can also be the eyes and ears out there with us.”

Residents who see invasive species are asked to call 1-877-INVASIV species and notify local, state and federal authorities.

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