It is very important to slow the spread of the zebra mussel as much as possible. There are steps that can be taken to do so, which include following guidelines issued by the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards and the international community. Keeping in mind that zebra mussels were only introduced into the United States and Canadian waters in the mid-1980s, their spread has been alarmingly rapid. To lessen their rate of spreading, perhaps the most effective approach is to increase public awareness, education, and concern. It is simpler and far less costly to prevent a problem from arising than it is to treat it once it has become established.
There are both natural and human-mediated means of zebra mussel dispersal. Zebra mussels were first introduced into North America in the mid-1980s and since then have rapidly spread throughout the Great Lakes Region, the Mississippi River drainage, and many other waterways east of the Rocky Mountains. Their dispersal can, in large part, be attributed to boat/barge traffic within the inland water systems. Any areas downstream of an infected body of water are also at risk of infestation from natural flow. While little can be done to mediate the naturally occurring mechanisms of zebra mussel spread (see the Life History and Biology section), there are steps that can be taken to minimize human-mediated dispersal.
Now that zebra mussel populations have become firmly established in many North American watersheds and are continuing to invade inland lakes and streams, it is highly unlikely that they will ever be completely eliminated. Much like the invasion of the Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) in the beginning of this century, it is simply a matter of time before the zebra mussel becomes established in other suitable water bodies. But this does not mean that precautions should not be taken to slow their introduction into new areas. If possible, human-mediated means of inadvertent dispersal, such as through boat/barge traffic, should at least be minimized. The threat to western waters posed by zebra mussels and other nonindigenous aquatic species has fostered a cooperative effort by resource agencies called the 100th Meridian Initiative to prevent or slow their movement west of this meridian (Drees 1998).
For more detailed information on slowing the spread of zebra mussels in North America or in a specific area, contact the local Corps of Engineers office, Sea Grant office, or Fish and Wildlife Service office.
Public Awareness and Education
Transfer of Boats from Infested Waters to Uninfested Waters
Ballast Water Regulations and Guidelines
Protocol for Responsible Monitoring Procedures