SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. - "Mussel Dogs" are making an appearance at Lake Nacimiento in an effort to catch aquatic hitchhikers and protect local ecosystems.
During the weekends of the Mid-State Fair, mussel-sniffing canines are helping public officials inspect vessels in hopes of spotting invasive species known as quagga or zebra mussels.
The San Luis Obispo County Public Works Department said zebra and quagga mussels typically “hitch” rides on boats and travel to other lakes, causing damage to a lake’s natural environment, boating and water equipment.
Once a lake is infested, it can be expensive to get rid of the mussels, so the county decided that preventing their spread is the best course of action.
According to the department, all vessels entering San Luis Obispo County lakes will be inspected for zebra and quagga mussel. Vessels will not be allowed to launch if they have visited a mussel-infested lake within the last 30 days or fail the vessel inspection. Boaters caught without a signed vessel inspection form on board at Lake Nacimiento could be faced with fines up to $2,000.
Working mussel dogs sniff around boats and alert their handlers of the presence of mussels. This helps dramatically decrease the time it takes to inspect boats.
In order to further expedite the inspection process, boaters are encouraged to follow simple guidelines when entering or leaving any waterway:
- Inspect all exposed surfaces; small mussels feel like sandpaper to the touch
- Wash the hull of each watercraft thoroughly
- Remove all plant and animal material
- Drain all water and dry all areas (including the lower outboard unit)
- Clean and dry all live-wells, and dispose of any unused bait in the trash
- Empty and dry any buckets and compartments
For a map of the location being inspected, click here.
For further information on invasive mussels, the County of San Luis Obispo’s mussel inspection program, and the current listing of infested lakes, click here.