FWP Seeking Feedback On Invasive Zebra Mussel Rules – Fins and Feathers Bozeman
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FWP Seeking Feedback On Invasive Zebra Mussel Rules

Zebra Mussels can be devastating to fisheries. It’s extra important to be vigilant about keeping them from spreading, so that they don’t ruin the fisheries here in Montana. Clean you boat and equipment every time you use it, especially when you move to a new water body. Drain all water from boats and allow to dry thoroughly after use. Also, dry everything including waders, wading boots and fishing tackle that has come into contact with water. Washing equipment with 140 degree water also kills the larvae.

Researchers found the invasive zebra mussel larvae last October in Tiber Reservoir, Canyon Ferry Reservoir, the Missouri River and the Milk River. Zebra mussels spread rapidly. A single mussel produces roughly 5 million eggs in a five-year life span, according to the National Wildlife Federation. The mussels cause problems for water quality, both economically and ecologically. They siphon up to a liter of water each day, removing nutrients and increasing water clarity. The loss of nutrients in the water reduces food for fish and allows more sunlight to reach the bottom of a lake, increasing the likelihood of toxic algae blooms.

Check out the Montana Joint Mussel Response Team for more info.

Statement from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks:

HELENA – The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Friday is asking the public about proposed amendments to rules that outline new regulations needed in the battle to contain, detect and prevent the risk of spreading invasive mussels and other aquatic invasive species to other state waters.

As part of the statewide effort to address the risks of invasive mussels, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks created new bureau to manage the threat of aquatic invasive species within the state.

Water sampling, in October, came back positive for invasive mussel larvae in Tiber Reservoir and samples from Canyon Ferry, the Missouri River upstream from Townsend and the Milk River downstream from Nelson Reservoir come back suspect.

The discovery triggered a natural resource emergency in Montana and led to several recommended strategies to manage the threat of invasive mussels spreading to other areas.

Some of the recommendations included additional mandatory Montana watercraft inspection stations; deployment of watercraft decontamination stations at Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs; and doubling sample collection to more than 1,500 taken from more than 200 waterbodies. Emergency response vehicles and equipment engaged in emergency activities would be exempt from the rule amendments.

– The proposed rule amendments outline several new regulations specified below:

– Mandatory inspections of out-of-state motorized or non-motorized watercraft prior to launching on any Montana waterbody.

– Mandatory inspections of motorized or non-motorized watercraft traveling across the Continental Divide into the Columbia River Basin within Montana.

– Mandatory inspections of all motorized or nonmotorized watercraft coming off Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs, and decontamination if necessary.

– Drain plugs would be required to be removed; if the watercraft doesn’t have drain plugs, reasonable measures must be taken to dry or drain all compartments, including bilges.

– Transporting lake and river water would be prohibited.

– Live bait and fish would be required to transported in clean domestic water where allowed in current fishing regulations. Upon leaving Tiber and Canyon Ferry Reservoirs, bait and fish must be transported without water.

The public is invited to give feedback at a hearing on the proposed rule amendments on Mar. 14 at FWP Headquarters.

Quagga and zebra mussels have caused tens of millions of dollars in damages in as many as 30 states, including the Midwest, Southwest and the Great Lakes areas. They likely arrived in the ballast water of ocean-going ships and appearing originally in the Great Lakes in the 1980s.

Hauling boats and associated equipment is the primary way invasive mussels are transported into waterbodies. All boaters and anglers are urged take year-round precautions and to clean, drain and dry their equipment after each use.

Mussel populations have impaired hydroelectric, municipal and agricultural water infrastructure. The mussels can impact fisheries and other aquatic resources; they can also damage recreation facilities.

Comments on the proposed rule amendments are due by Mar. 17. Comments can be emailed to fwpexotics@mt.gov; or mailed to: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Fisheries Division, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701.