Quagga mussels: ‘Dangerous’ mollusc spreads into Surrey

getSURREY News reports

 

  • By Matt Strudwick

Less than 5cm in length, the species breeds so prolifically that its clusters grow metres thick and can smother boat hulls, block pipes and potentially cause flooding

 

Quagga mussels can wreak havoc with boat engines

A species of mussel found for the first time in Britain only a few weeks ago, and which could devastate our wetlands, has spread to a further seven locations.

The quagga mussel, native to the Ukraine, was discovered by the Environment Agency earlier this month, north of Staines on the River Wraysbury and Wraysbury Reservoir.

It has since been found in the Queen Elizabeth II Reservoir and Beesborough Reservoir in Walton, as well as the Queen Mary Reservoir in Staines.

Less than 5cm in length, the molluscs breed so prolifically that their clusters grow metres thick and can smother boat hulls, block pipes and potentially cause flooding.

They also can poison water due to their eating habits, where they extract nutrients and discard unwanted particles in the form of toxic faeces.

Experts have warned the organisms could cause millions of pounds of damage and have urged everyone who uses lakes and rivers to help stop the spread of the invasive species.

Mark Owen, head of freshwater at the Angling Trust, said: “It’s vitally important that all water users, including anglers, take every possible precaution to stop this species spreading throughout the UK.

“Invasive species could do untold damage to freshwater and estuarine environments if they are allowed to spread, which could have a significant impact on marine and freshwater fish stocks.”

Usually spread by human activity, as they attach themselves to boat hulls and other fishing equipment, the Environment Agency is advising people to use the ‘check, clean, dry’ approach of thoroughly cleaning and dry any equipment which has come into contact with water.

Sarah Chare, head of fisheries, biodiversity and geomorphology at the Environment Agency, said: “These newest discoveries only go to show just how prolific the quagga mussel is.

“We are monitoring the extent of its spread and working closely with partners to ensure they are aware of it and know what action to take.”

Its larvae are not visible to the naked eye, which the Environment Agency said was why drying was a critical step in applying good biosecurity.

Experts have suggested rinsing or soaking equipment in hot water to increase the chance of killing larvae and adults.

Simon Earl, head of water production at Thames Water, said there was no threat to the quality of water it supplies for customers but that it will continue to monitor the situation.

The molluscs have also been located in the Lee Valley at the Warwick East and West Reservoir and William Girling Reservoir.

Anyone who spots a quagga mussel should report it to the Environment Agency through its online recording form at

www.nonnativespecies.org/alerts/quaggamussel.