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Alien invasion

Alien invasion – in a lake near you

Liam Horan
WHEN Cllr Al McDonnell was told ‘the aliens are coming’ at a meeting of Mayo County Council, he knew it was no joke. Instead, he screwed his face up and asked that more people be told before it’s too late.
The aliens, most assuredly, are coming. Correction, the aliens are here already.
They have a name – Zebra Mussels.
They have embraced new technology too and you can read all about them on www.alienspecies.ie.
“Alarming,” said Al, when he heard what they can do. Al likes to pass a quiet Sunday afternoon fishing on Lough Carra.
He grew up so close to the lake he probably went to sleep at night listening to the gentle lapping of its shallow waters. He remains true to his home place and now – with the Zebra Mussels on the march – he wants anglers and other boatmen and women to know just how serious a threat they are.
Zebra Mussels are an invasive species. They are heedless family planners and reproduce rapidly. In no time, they will form a coat on the bottom of a boat. They can clog intake pipes for water supplies, and in parts of America, millions have been spent to try to get them out of water systems.
You don’t need to be a genius to calculate the cost – economic and human – of, say, the Lough Mask water supply slowing to a trickle because of these relentless reproducers. With Mask water now supplying more towns and villages than ever before, it’s a frightening prospect.
According to Dr Aoife Thornton – this region’s alien-buster – it is not some distant threat. Zebra Mussels arrived in Northern Ireland in 1994 and they have come right across the country mainly on the bottoms of River Shannon cruisers to set up home in the water systems of the west.
They have moved fast and they have no intention of slowing down.
And that’s why some of the colour seemed to drain from Al’s face when she addressed last week’s county council meeting. That, and the fact that Zebra Mussels filter up to one litre of water per day through. This changes the food web of their new habitat. Thus, the population of fish gets reduced.
“As an angler I offer you our total support,” he told Dr Thornton, as she outlined her efforts to halt the march of the Zebra Mussel. And he urged her to meet with the owners of fishing and leisure boats in the region to enlist their help.
There are a few things boat-owners can do. Dry out boats for up to a month. Scrap down and steam-clean boats after taking them out of water. Store boats in dry conditions. Clean outboard motors. Leave engines to dry for at least three weeks. Clean secondhand boats upon purchase.
Over 60 lakes all over Ireland are now infested. There are fears the Zebra Mussel will over-run the lakes of the Corrib catchment. The race is on to beat the aliens before it’s too late.