Origin: Native of Russia

Impact: The zebra mussel is a highly invasive aquatic species that multiplies rapidly and can cause tremendous environmental and economic damage. This bivalve mollusk, originally from the Balkans, Poland and the former Soviet Union, has become established in Europe and is currently found in 29 U.S. states. According to the online National Atlas of the United States, “Once zebra mussels become established in a water body, they are impossible to eradicate with the technology currently available.

Zebra Mussels in Texas
On April 3, 2009, the first adult zebra mussel in Texas waters was confirmed living in Lake Texoma. Invasive zebra mussels were also found in a stream that feeds into Lake Lavon. Experts fear they could eventually spread throughout the Red and Trinity River systems as well as much of Texas. Both river systems extend southward to the Gulf of Mexico.

View More Pictures

Why Should I Care?
Everyone should care because zebra mussels are known to have caused alarming declines in populations of fish, birds and native mussel species and can disrupt a city’s entire water supply system by colonizing the insides of pipelines and restricting the flow of water. Boaters should care since zebra mussels can damage boat hulls, plug water systems used in boat motors, air conditioners and heads and cause navigation buoys to sink. Millions of dollars are spent each year controlling, cleaning and monitoring zebra mussels in other states.

Help Prevent the Spread of Zebra Mussels!
When leaving any water suspected of having zebra mussels, boaters and other water recreational users can help stop or slow the spread of zebra mussels from one water body to another by ALWAYS practicing the following three easy steps: CLEAN, DRAIN AND DRY

Inspect your boat, trailer and gear and remove any zebra mussels, vegetation or foreign objects that are found. If you find zebra mussels or if your boat has been kept on a lake known to have zebra mussels then it needs to be fully decontaminated. Wash your boat, trailer and any gear that has been in the water thoroughly, ideally at a commercial carwash or using a high pressure sprayer with hot (140 degrees F) soapy water. Water above 140 degrees F will kill the zebra mussels and the high pressure wash will help remove them from your boat. Also, if your boat has internal operating systems (engine cooling, air conditioning, head, etc.) that take up water from the lake then it may require the services of a marina or boat mechanic to ensure all zebra mussels are removed and to help prevent damage to your boat. 

Drain all water from the boat, including the engine, bilge, livewells and bait buckets, before leaving the lake.

Open all compartments and livewells and allow the boat and trailer to sit completely dry for a week or more before entering another water body.

Under the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas Penal Codes, possession or transporting of zebra mussels in Texas is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, jail time up to 180 days, or both.

Spread the Word
Help spread the word not the mussels by using the “Hello Zebra Mussels, Goodbye Texas Lakes” campaign materials, including web banners, videos, images for newsletters and email blasts and printable PDFs of flyers. View Spread the Word.

Ecological, Economical, and Recreational Impacts
This highly invasive aquatic species multiplies rapidly and can cause tremendous environmental and economic damage. One adult zebra mussel can filter up to one liter of water per day. This filtering and feeding activity reduces the abundance of plankton, the microscopic organisms that form the bottom of the aquatic food chain. This can lead to reduced populations of gizzard shad and other organisms that eat plankton. In Texas reservoirs, declines in those populations could mean a shortage of food for sport fish such as striped bass, which feed on shad. Zebra mussels pose a real threat to native mussels by competing for food and attaching to their shells. A zebra mussel colony can eventually smother a native mussel colony.

Each year millions of dollars are spent in controlling, cleaning and monitoring zebra mussels in other states. They can disrupt an entire water supply system by colonizing the insides of pipelines and restricting the flow of water.

On the fishing and recreational front, zebra mussels are responsible for fouling boat hulls and plugging water systems used in motors, air conditioners and heads.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has developed a public awareness campaign, “Hello Zebra Mussels, Goodbye Texas Lakes: Clean, Drain and Dry” to make boaters and other water recreation users more aware of the potentially devastating effects that zebra mussels pose to our state’s aquatic ecosystems, private property and water-related infrastructure such as water supply systems. This campaign is made possible by a coalition of partners, including:

  • North Texas Municipal Water District
  • Tarrant Regional Water District;
  • Trinity River Authority
  • City of Dallas Water Utilities Department
  • Sabine River Authority
  • Canadian River Municipal Water Authority
  • San Jacinto River Authority
  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
  • Angelina and Neches River Authority
  • Brazos River Authority