Invasive Zebra mussels have been discovered in ‘moss’ balls sold at various retailers, including pet and plant stores, throughout North America, including here in Alberta.

‘Moss’ (marimo) balls are a unique spherical growth form of a green algal species named Aegagropila linnei, but may be sold under its former name, Cladophora aegagropila. They are primarily sold for decorative purposes in aquariums and in water displays and can be found in Northern Europe, Iceland and Japan.

Anyone who sees moss balls being sold should call our 24/7 hotline at 1-855-336-2628.

Zebra mussels found by our AIS team have been small, and may not be easy to see by the untrained eye. Our Conservation K9 team was also utilized to confirm the presence of invasive mussels on the moss balls.

Our Science and Monitoring team analyzing the moss balls have confirmed many contain zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha); water samples are also being tested to see if the microscopic larval form (called veligers) of mussels are present.

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To learn more about aquatic invasive species, visit: https://www.alberta.ca/Aquatic-invasive-species.aspx

Zebra mussels are up to 3cm in size, and have a flattened ventral surface given them a characteristic D-shape, and are found attached to surfaces, such as moss balls. Female mussels can produce up to 1 million microscopic eggs, which when fertilized, turn into microscopic larvae called veligers that circulate in the water.

Zebra mussels are listed as an aquatic invasive species under the Fisheries (Alberta) Act. If introduced, they would have severe impacts to Alberta’s economy and environment.

If a mussel infestation occurred in Alberta, the province is estimating a total cost of $75,000,000 annually to protect and replace water operated infrastructure (such as drinking water systems, power generation and irrigation structures and pipe), and in lost revenue from recreational fishing. This estimate includes decreasing property values and increased boat maintenance costs for the individual Albertan.

Under the Fisheries (Alberta) Act, it is illegal to import, sell or possess a prohibited aquatic invasive species.

Overland transfer of watercraft has been a prioritized pathway of introduction for invasive mussels. Moss balls are a new pathway of introduction.

The Aquatic Invasive Species team is working with our jurisdictional partners to trace shipments of moss balls that have been received in Canada from the contaminated source.

The Aquatic Invasive Species Team have been working with local distributors and stores (pet and plant) that are selling moss balls to remove from them the shelves and stop selling them, and voluntarily surrender them to a Fishery’s Guardian for further inspection.

Officers may seize contaminated moss balls under the Fisheries (Alberta) Act.