Report Mussel Restoration Critical to Chesapeake Bay Cleanup / Public Information Service

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland – Freshwater mussels are essential to keeping the Chesapeake Bay watershed clean, and with more than half of all species currently threatened with extinction, a new report has urged policymakers to target more efforts to restore important bivalves.

Joe Wood, Virginia senior scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and co-author of the report, said a mussel can filter up to 15 gallons of water and is essential to the ecosystem of the bay, like its oyster parents.

Unlike oysters, he pointed out, mussels have not received the same attention or funding for rehabilitation.

“We don’t have any goals for the restoration of freshwater mussels associated with the bay clean-up effort,” Wood noted. “And that doesn’t mean that some of the things we do are good for them, but they’re not even part of the conversation at this point, and they should be.”

He explained that mussels are sensitive and reproduce by clinging to traveling fish. Dams and other obstacles in rivers that prevent fish from migrating are one of the reasons mussel populations are declining.

Doug Myers, Maryland senior scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said there was hope for Maryland mussels, noting that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has started a mussel restoration project in the basin. slope of the Patapsco river and that it benefited from the removal of a dam.

He reported that another project on the horizon will bring a freshwater mussel hatchery to the lower Susquehanna River to reintroduce some species.

“There are a few species of freshwater mussels left in the lower Susquehanna River, and there are four dams there,” Myers said. “So it’s going to take not only reintroduction, but probably some investigation to make sure these host fish are there as well.”

The report found that mussel populations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have declined by about 90% since settlers arrived in the 1600s due to pollution, dams, climate change and disease. . This decline has resulted in a severe loss of both mussel biodiversity and pollution reduction benefits.

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