Foreign mollusks could sink fishing in Lake Michigan

by Jeff Alexander

Below the steel-blue waters of Lake Michigan, a giant sucking sound is transforming the world's sixth largest lake in ways that scientists never thought possible.

An estimated 330 trillion quagga mussels carpet vast areas of Lake Michigan's underbelly. The foreign mollusks literally are sucking much of the aquatic life out of the water and depositing it on the lake bottom, according to new scientific data.

"It's unbelievable, the changes that are happening," said Gary Fahnenstiel, a senior ecologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Lake Michigan Field State in Muskegon. "The quagga mussel population has exploded and is taking over the lake bottom."

Quagga mussels are the slightly larger and far more disruptive cousins of zebra mussels. The filter-feeders have been linked to increased algae blooms that have fouled Great Lakes beaches and botulism outbreaks that have claimed more than 70,000 fish-eating birds and countless fish over the past decade.

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