‘They’re just a nuisance’: Okoboji business reacts to growing zebra mussel population

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SPIRIT LAKE, Iowa (KCAU) – An invasive species continues to impact the Iowa Great Lakes with no signs of relief. The Iowa Great Lakes have been dealing with zebra mussels in its waterways. They’re considered an invasive species and have been damaging to the surrounding environment.

Blake Poock has been dealing with zebra mussels for a long time.

“Yeah, it was the last five years they kind of started coming around and then each year, it progressively got worse and worse, so definitely affecting the lakes and some of the boats and equipment around here,” said Blake Poock of Okoboji Boat Works.

He said the growing population is negatively affecting his boating business and customers.

“Yeah, it’s just an extra, extra deal with cleaning of course. They’re just a nuisance. People swimming get cut up, they’re like, kind of like razor blades. So with our boats, sending families and parties out, it’s kind of a big deal for us,” said Poock.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources explains how the mollusk got to Iowa and how damaging they’ve been to the ecosystem.

“So they came in ballast water from ships going to the Great Lakes, and I think that was back in about the late 80’s when they first documented them. They’re taking plankton, zooplankton, other organic materials out of the water column and filtering that for their feeding activity. Now, one zebra mussel can filter one liter of water per day, so imagine millions of zebra mussels in a water body, and it only takes a few days to filter that, that water,” said Jonathan Meerbeek, an Iowa DNR Fisheries Research Biologist.

Meerbeek said Iowa Great Lakes boaters can contribute to curbing the growth of the invasive species.

“The biggest thing we want to do is just educate the public, make sure they clean their boats, drain their boats, and dry all the water out of the boats because it doesn’t take much but a cup of water to be able to transport these things into other water bodies,” said Meerbeek.

“I think we need to get a grasp on this and, go from there,” said Poock.

Meerbeek said one female zebra mussel can produce more than 1,000,000 offspring in one year.

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