A freshwater mussel that’s infested waters across the globe is now dangerously close to Maine.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife issued a warning this week to call attention to the invasive zebra mussel and a new state law requiring boaters to drain water from their boats that might contain microscopic zebra mussel larvae.
Unlike mussels on the ocean floor, zebra mussels live in freshwater and attach themselves to hard objects.
“Zebra mussels will attach to pipes and boats and docks. They are closer to Maine than they ever have been,” State Fisheries Biologist Joe Overlock said.
Invasive zebra mussels have been found in Quebec and New Brunswick waters near the Maine border.
It’s why a new state law is now in effect: the “clean, drain and dry” law.
“This new law requires folks to open drain plugs before launching a boat or after removing a boat from the water. And it needs to be done in a manner that does not allow that drained water to enter any inland water of the state, so it needs to be done in a place away from the water,” Overlock said.
The Raymond Waterways Protective Association just spent the last 20 years removing invasive milfoil from Sebago Lake.
“So now we’re threatened with zebra mussels,” said Peggy Jensen, a member of that association.
Jensen said the courtesy boat inspections the association runs all summer long are even more critical now to stop a mussel no bigger than a thumbnail.
“The larvae are what’s dangerous, cause they’re so tiny you can’t see them. But they can live in a pool of water. So, if water is left in a boat, you can transfer zebra mussel larvae from one water body to another,” Jensen said.
Maine boaters agree.
“It’s super important to get all the water out of your boat, to make sure Maine lakes stay clean,” boat owner Riley LaVoie said.
One bright spot: zebra mussels need calcium.
About 90 percent of Maine lakes and rivers lack the calcium they need to survive, according to Overlock.
“That’s a fortunate thing for the state of Maine. However, we need to operate as if any water could become infested,” Overlock said.
Chemical treatments can also kill zebra mussels, but state officials hope it doesn’t come to that.