Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife investigators visited 171 pet stores in Washington over the past two weeks following reports of invasive zebra mussels being found in some products.
“I’m sick of moss balls,” Capt. Eric Anderson of the WDFW enforcement program said.
WDFW investigators worked alongside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Invasive zebra mussels were discovered in “Betta Buddy” brand Marimo moss ball at Petcos, PetSmarts and other pet stores in Seattle, Coeur d’ Alene and nationwide at the beginning of March.
Anderson said the pet stores have been cooperative and many had voluntarily recalled the moss balls prior to WDFW officers visiting.
Stores that did have moss balls turned the product over to investigators for testing. As of Thursday, zebra mussel-infected moss balls had been found in 32 states and five Canadian providences, Anderson said. Most of the mussels found were dead, he said.
“The industry has been super responsive,” he said.
The mussels started to appear in the moss balls after a new, Ukrainian-based, moss ball supplier started selling wild-harvest moss, Anderson said.
Zebra mussels originate in the Caspian Sea. They were introduced into the Great Lakes sometime in the late 1980s via ballast water in transport ships. Within five years, they’d colonized the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. The mussels clog facilities and choke out native vegetation and wildlife.
They have not been found in Washington, Idaho or Oregon waters. Increased boat inspections at state boarders are aimed at stopping the spread of the mussels, which it’s estimated could cost between $10 and $25 million per hydroelectric facility per year in the Columbia River system.