Returning freshwater mussels to Central Appalachia

Endangered juvenile pink mucket pearlymussels from 2014. This freshwater mussel is found in just two of the states in our Northeast Region - West Virginia and Virginia. Credit: USFWS
Endangered juvenile pink mucket pearlymussels from 2014. This freshwater mussel is found in just two of the states in our Northeast Region - West Virginia and Virginia. Credit: USFWS

Endangered juvenile pink mucket pearlymussels tagged and ready for release in the Ohio River! This freshwater mussel is found in just two of the states in our Northeast Region – West Virginia and Virginia. Photo courtesy of Janet Clayton, WVDNR

You're hearing from Anne Post, chief librarian stationed at the National Conservation Training Center. She is passionate about photography and film, and loves any possible creative opportunity that presents itself. She is really good at bringing order to chaos, i.e., her library hat.

This post is coming from Anne Post, chief librarian duty stationed at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV. She is passionate about photography and film, and loves any possible creative opportunity that presents itself. 

Refuge biologist Patty Morrison of the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge (WV, PA, KY) and other endangered freshwater mussel proponents are celebrating remarkable landscape-level recovery efforts made possible by exemplary partnership between our agency, state, university and private partners. The details of this steady recovery effort are described in the recently published 2014 permit report.

Moving the needle on endangered mussel recovery takes many years and the cooperation of numerous partners,” Patty said. “Each year we mark progress forward in incremental steps through re-introductions, propagation of juvenile mussels in captivity, stocking and monitoring.”

Work to propagate, collect, stock and monitor these endangered mussels continues in the face of getting clobbered by invasive zebra mussels species that crowd out and destroy native mussel populations. Check it out:

  • Purple cat’s paw pearly mussel:  the second ever successful captive propagation of juvenile purple cat’s paw pearly mussel, and continued survival and growth of the 2013 juveniles in captivity;
  • Clubshell mussels:  the stocking of additional adult clubshell mussels to the mainstream Ohio River and Middle Island Creek in West Virginia, and continued growth of juveniles;
  • Pink mucket pearly mussels:  the second ever stocking of captive-raised juvenile pink muckets to the mainstem Ohio River in West Virginia, and successful detection of last year’s stocked juveniles; and
  • Sheepnose mussel:  the first ever successful transformation of juvenile sheepnose in cell culture media (without using a fish host).
Tagged fanshell freshwater mussel and snail friend at the bottom of the Ohio River. Photo courtesy of Janet Clayton, WVDNR

Tagged fanshell freshwater mussel and snail friend at the bottom of the Ohio River. Photo courtesy of Janet Clayton, WVDNR

Successful restoration of some endangered mussel populations is thanks to some pretty sensational multi-regional, multi-program cooperation across our agency and stellar conservation partnerships with the WV Department of Natural Resources, Ohio State University, Tennessee Tech University, the Columbus Zoo Freshwater Mussel Conservation and Research CenterIllinois Department of Natural ResourcesIllinois Natural History Survey, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat CommissionKY Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources and other organizations.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service diver Doug Canfield splashes into the water in preparation for mussel work! Credit: USFWS

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service diver Doug Canfield splashes into the water in preparation for mussel work! Credit: USFWS

As Janet Clayton, wildlife diversity biologist and mussel project leader for the West Virginia DNR chimed in to say: “West Virginia has nine federally endangered mussel species. Some of the populations are listed within the recovery plans requiring restoration for de-listing. West Virginia is proud to be working with our federal and state partners in the restoration efforts for these species as it is only through the efforts of many that recovery can be accomplished.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service diver Matt Patterson prepares to place tagged juvenile northern riffleshell mussels in the Allegheny River at East Brady. The young riffleshells — an endangered species — were bred in a fish hatchery from adult stock that biologists rescued before a bridge demolition. Photo courtesy of Janet Butler, WVDNR

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service diver Matt Patterson prepares to place tagged juvenile northern riffleshell mussels in the Allegheny River at East Brady. The young riffleshells — an endangered species — were bred in a fish hatchery from adult stock that biologists rescued before a bridge demolition. Credit: USFWS

And…let’s not forget the divers from the our agency and WV DNR that helped restock the Ohio River, as well as other teams that collected clubshells from the Allegheny River as part of that very cool recovery project. Snorkels affixed, they dove and stocked the rivers to help guarantee the slow but steady climb to recovery.

Read more about these efforts:

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