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Zebra Mussels Attack Native Species


NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - Adult Zebra mussels, an Invasive Alien Species, were found attached to the shell of a native mussel during monitoring by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) on Lower Lough MacNean.

The Government’s Zebra Mussel Control Group has warned that Zebra Mussels can cause blocked intake pipes, which increases costs to both water treatment plants and to boat users. They also warn of the threat they pose to the natural functioning of a lake system.

John Early, of the NIEA and The Zebra Mussel Control Group, said: “Zebra Mussels, native to the lakes of south east Russia, attach themselves on the stony lake bottom but also to any hard surface, such as boats, buoys and water intake pipes, where they can form very dense clusters and are principally spread by recreational water use.

"It is important that water users are aware of the environmental impacts of Zebra Mussels. The impacts that have been recorded at Lough Erne emphasise the importance of preventing them from spreading to other unconnected lakes. Prevention of spread is an issue of shared responsibility and we are asking all water users to follow the guidance issued.”

Signage has been placed at slipways around Lough Erne and at Lough MacNean highlighting that boats and equipment should be carefully cleaned, bilge water drained and any plant material attached to the engine or trailer should be removed.

He added: ”I would encourage water users to be aware of their presence and if they do find them outside the Lough Erne and Lough Neagh system to report them to NIEA by calling 028 9056 9556."

Zebra mussels filter water resulting in improved clarity, as a result of the clearer water there have been changes to fish communities in Lough Erne and hence are a major risk to the future of some freshwater fisheries. This may result in a decline in income to commercial fisheries and to the recreational tourist industry.

Additionally, the improved water clarity has resulted in excessive growth of native plants in Lough Erne. This excessive growth of plants has caused serious problems for recreational water users and has affected the tourism trade.