Governor Mark Gordon has convened an emergency response team to mitigate impacts and seek solutions to the discovery of invasive zebra mussels in Wyoming. The team, led by Director Brian Nesvik of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Director Doug Miyamoto of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, is working to remove the products that carry zebra mussels and contain their potential spread.
Last week, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, for the first time in the state, found zebra mussels in aquatic algae products sold primarily in pet stores — known as moss balls. The mussels may be live and viable and have been on the market for an undetermined period of time. Subsequently, these mussels were found in over two dozen other states’ pet stores.
“This is an urgent and serious matter that potentially affects Wyoming’s water infrastructure, lakes and rivers,” Governor Gordon said. “This mussel is a vicious aquatic invasive species from South Russia and the Ukraine with the potential to wreak havoc on domestic water supplies and our irrigation infrastructure and ruin some of our best fishing.”
A recent study from Montana estimates hundreds of millions of dollars worth of impacts in the form of lost revenue, property damage, and mitigation costs if the mussel became established there. Similar impacts could be seen in Wyoming.
The response team includes representatives from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources, Wyoming Department of Transportation, Wyoming State Engineer’s Office, Wyoming Energy Authority, Wyoming Department of Tourism, Wyoming Water Development Commission and Wyoming Office of Homeland Security. Together, these state agencies along with Game and Fish and the Department of Agriculture are working to learn more about the issue and seeking containment and mitigation solutions. The main priorities of the team are to remove and analyze the products that carry zebra mussels, contain them if found in systems and educate the public.
Game and Fish and the Department of Agriculture are also reviewing existing laws and regulations that may be used to further limit importation and to quarantine any other products that contain this invasive species. The Department of Agriculture recently signed a quarantine order banning the importation, sale and distribution of green filamentous algae (Aegagropila linnaei) — the species of algae moss most commonly used in moss balls. Game and Fish and Agriculture inspectors are also assisting with the ongoing federal investigations.
“Our main goal is to come together quickly to remove the invasives and coordinate our efforts to mitigate any potential impacts,” Governor Gordon said.
The emergency response team and the Governor’s Office are working with the Legislature to determine if emergency funds can be made available for water testing, outreach and other costs associated with the discovery of zebra mussels.
Game and Fish is offering recommendations on how to dispose of moss balls and aquarium water at https://wgfd.wyo.gov/Get-Involved/AIS-moss-balls.