Zebra mussels discovery alarms officials
Boaters are asked to help keep the pests out of Oregon
Published June 7, 2004
Talk about stopping a terror threat at the border.
One of the most feared invasive, non-native species in
North America — the zebra mussel — was found recently
at a Idaho-Washington truck weight station.
Officials with the Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife recently stopped a large boat at the border.
The boat was being pulled on a trailer cross-country by
a commercial vehicle.
Inspectors found that the boat contained living zebra
mussels and ordered it sterilized.
Since they arrived in the Great Lakes in 1986 in ballast
water dumped from European ships, the encrusting, fingernail-sized
mollusks have spread to 22 states from Virginia to Kansas.
It costs the government millions of dollars to fight
zebra mussels from clogging intake and outfall pipes,
damaging boat engines and smothering and outcompeting
native shellfish and wildlife.
On May 11, Washington Fish and Wildlife officials got
an alert from a Washington State Patrol officer at the
Interstate 90 Port of Entry east of Spokane.
James Spencer, a state police vehicle inspector, reported
finding the mussels attached to the trim tabs of a 38-foot
boat on its way from Tennessee to Washington’s coast.
“Our nuisance species detection training paid off,” said
Capt. Mike Whorton of Fish and Wildlife regional enforcement
who took the original call from Spencer.
The thing that scares Pacific Northwest officials is
all of the recreational boats that don’t have to stop
at the stations for commercial traffic.
“We have potentially the same problem here in Oregon.
Boats are one transporter of zebra mussels,” said Randy
Henry, an information representative for the Oregon State
Marine Board. “Oregon boaters who trailer their boats
to infested waters east of the Rocky Mountains, or out-of-state
boaters visiting Oregon, are one concern.
“Brokers carrying boats to Oregon for sale or show are
Zebra mussels can spread by hitchhiking on boats and
other water-based recreational equipment, and the larvae
can survive for extended periods in bilges and ballast
Federal agencies and private organizations across the
United States have formed partnerships to educate the
public about the problem with the goal of preventing further
One message from the group: It is a violation to transport
noxious aquatic weeds and prohibited species, like zebra
“We simply ask that people take reasonable steps to keep
their boats clean and free of any plant or animal material,”
Henry said. “Zebra mussels aren’t the only nuisance species
we are worried about.
“Several aquatic plants, such as hydrilla, can be transported
by boats and pose a serious risk to our waterways. The
steps to preventing their spread are easy.”
And officials are asking for help in tracking down or
spotting potential problems.
“We also want people to keep their eyes open,” Henry
said. “If you see another boat with what may be zebra
mussels attached to the craft, let the operator know they
must be removed.
“If you can’t locate the operator, call a local marine
officer who can. Zebra mussels are one visitor Oregon
doesn’t want to see.”
With the help of Spokane Police Officer Brian L. Baldwin,
Spencer detained the boat hauler until Whorton and Mike
Sprecher, a Fish and Wildlife officer, arrived to collect
information and make arrangements to send the boat to
a decontamination site at a Bellingham marina.
“Unfortunately, smaller boats don’t have to stop at commercial
ports like this one did,” Whorton said, “and we fear zebra
mussels or other invasive plants and animals may be slipping