Mussels Muscling In, Crabs Pinching Native Species

April 29, 1998

Like neighborhood bullies, zebra mussels are muscling in on native American aquatic species, and green crabs are pinching the food supply from native crabs.

But scientists from Sea Grant and NOAA are holding a competition to encourage examination of alternative technologies that can keep marine marauders in their home waters.

Where are these invaders coming from?

As ships take on water for ballast, they take on the mud and sediment from other countries. When they dump the sediment and water close to home, they also dump all the creatures living there. The problem of how to kill off the invader species while leaving the native species unharmed has perplexed scientists.

Right now, ships exchange water out in the ocean, with the theory that deep sea creatures can?t survive near shore and vice versa. But this method is imperfect, so scientists have looked at other possible solutions for ships, including installing powerful on-board filtration systems. As for the invaders who have made it into American waters, solutions range from the standard ? such as chemical treatments for zebra mussels ? to the exotic ? such as introducing parasitic barnacles that make green crabs sterile, but leaves others alone.

Scientists are hoping that the competition will yield even more creative solutions.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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