Invasive zebra mussels found in Georgia; could cause millions of dollars in damage

ATLANTA — They may be small, but they can pack a serious punch.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division is warning about an invasive species found in Georgia: Zebra Mussels.

Wildlife officials are urging both pet and aquarium stores and aquarium owners to remove and safely dispose of any moss ball plant designed for aquariums after the invasive zebra mussels were discovered inside the product.

“Zebra mussels pose a significant risk to our state, so we urge anyone that may have purchased this type of product in the last month or has them on store shelves to remove it immediately, if they have not already done so,” said Jim Page, WRD Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator. “But, don’t just throw it away anywhere! The concern with this specific mussel is that its’ release into the wild via septic systems or from being discarded in nearby ditches, creeks, or other waterbodies could result in establishment of the species in our state and lead to major ecological and economic damage.”

Officials were alerted about this situation after reports from Washington state indicated zebra mussels were discovered attached to and inside these moss ball plants, like the “Betta Buddy Marimo Ball,” found at a local PetCo store. Visits to multiple pet chain stores in Georgia confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in this and other products.

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PetCo stores across the nation, including Georgia, have since removed the product from their shelves. However, other pet store owners and operators are encouraged to check for this product, and if found, to immediately remove it and safely dispose of it.

People are urged to not purchase this product from stores or online. If you have purchased this item in the last month, dispose of it properly and sanitize your tank.

Why are zebra mussels so dangerous to Georgia?

Zebra mussels cause millions of dollars in damage to boats and water intake pipes while creating ecological harm to native mussels and other aquatic biology.

“Currently, there is not a known established population of zebra mussels in Georgia state waters, and we are hopeful that with the public’s help that we can keep that streak going,” Page said.

How to properly dispose of mussels

If you have the moss ball plants, you’re urged to freeze them for 24 hours or boil them for at least 10 seconds before throwing them in the trash. Officials said most importantly, people should not flush it down the toilet or throw them away outside. People can also contact their local WRD office for more information.

INVASIVE SPECIES FOUND IN PET STORE PRODUCT: WE NEED YOUR HELP! The Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources’ Wildlife...

Posted by Wildlife Resources Division - Georgia DNR on Friday, March 5, 2021