Are there mussels on your moss balls? Alberta officials warn of tiny invasive species

CALGARY — Wildlife officials are sounding the alarm following the discovery of a tiny invader that hitched a ride into Alberta last week.

Moss balls, also known as marimos, are a popular item among aquarium lovers and are sold in many pet and plant stores throughout the province.

However, when provincial officials discovered a delivery of moss balls to an Alberta distributor had stowaway on board, they became concerned.

“Staff inspected the moss balls and confirmed that invasive mussels were found,” Alberta Environment and Parks wrote on Facebook.

The intercepted shipment originated from the Ukraine, the same place where a number of U.S. businesses also received the contaminated moss balls.

Zebra mussels pose “a significant threat” to Alberta’s waterways, the province says, especially because they are extremely difficult to eradicate.

“Invasive mussels are filter feeders that strain suspended matter and food particles out of the water, disrupting natural food chains and leading to a depleted fishery (fewer and smaller fish) as the fish don’t have enough food,” a government document reads.

All of the moss balls in the shipment were seized under the Fisheries Act, officials say.

calgary, alberta, zebra mussels, invasive species,

(Supplied/Alberta Environment and Parks)

Meanwhile, any aquarium owners who’ve recently received moss balls through the mail are encouraged to inspect them for any zebra mussels that may have hitched a ride.

“Inspect your moss balls for invasive mussels both visually and by feeling for hard shells. Remember – they can be very small!” the province says.

Anyone who believes they may have found any mussels are encouraged to call the 24/7 hotline at 1-855-336-2628.

Residents should place any infested moss balls they find into a sealable plastic bag and freeze them for at least 24 hours. The moss ball, along with all of its packaging, must then be thrown into the garbage.

“Please do not flush moss balls down the toilet or dispose of them in the compost,” officials say. “Invasive mussels pose a serious threat to Alberta’s aquatic ecosystems, fisheries and water infrastructure like irrigation canals. Never dump aquarium tank pets, plants or water into any residential water system or Alberta waterway.”

calgary, alberta, zebra mussels, invasive species,

calgary, alberta, zebra mussels, invasive species,

(Supplied/Alberta Environment and Parks)

Zebra mussels, which can produce about one million eggs each year, do not possess any natural predators in Alberta.

The province says if a mussel infestation occurred here, it would cost $75 million per year to repair the damage caused to waterways, infrastructure and lost revenue from recreational fishing.

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