Management & Control

Response and Management

Despite ongoing prevention and monitoring practices, zebra and quagga mussels are identified in dozens of new water bodies each year. Having appropriate response and management protocols in place can help to mitigate the negative impacts of mussels on industrial, municipal, and recreational water users following detection. A variety of response and management plans have been developed at the regional, state/provincial, and individual water body scales.

Is there a management plan for my area?

To see if your region has a rapid response plan, select publication type as “plan,” select topic as “response,” and type your location of interest in the search bar. Click submit to see all plans for the selected region.


Elements of a Plan

The National Park Service outlines elements of effective invasive mussel response + management plans in their Quagga/Zebra Mussel Infestation Prevention and Response Planning Guide. Numerous state/provincial and regional plans have been developed using a similar framework. See the Oregon Dreissenid Mussel Rapid Response Plan as an example or find out if your region is covered by a plan using the tool above. Response to a mussel invasion typically takes place in two phases –  initial and extended.

Phase One: Initial Response

Responding to a zebra or quagga mussel invasion immediately following detection greatly increases the likelihood that the population can be controlled. Having a rapid response plan in place prior to invasion is the best way to stop mussels from spreading and to minimize negative impacts following detection.

An invasion curve demonstrates the increased cost and difficulty of managing invasive species as time goes on following establishment. Eradication is only possible if action is taken promptly after detection.

An invasion curve demonstrates the increased cost and difficulty of managing invasive species as time goes on following establishment. Eradication is only possible if action is taken promptly after detection. Image Credit: Agriculture Victoria

Stages of initial response and example actions


  • Assess geographic/hydrologic scope, focus on at-risk water bodies
  • Identify partner organizations and define responsibilities
  • Develop a communication and action strategy in event of a detection

Photo Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


  • Perform diver surveys of detection area
  • Photograph specimens
  • Collect samples and confirm identification
  • Determine invasion status of water body

  • Alert all interagency partners identified in pre-planning with known information and next steps

Photo Credit: National Park Service


  • Survey water body to determine location of existing populations
  • Identify invasion stage for each location
  • Determine likely locations for population dispersal and expansion
  • Identify facilities that could be affected (hydropower, fish hatcheries, irrigation systems, etc.)

Photo Credit: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources


  • Identify and restrict dispersal vectors (e.g. recreational boating)
  • Quarantine infested locations or water bodies through regulation or physical barriers
  • Implement HACCP plans to ensure that response personnel do not further spread mussels

Photo Credit: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

  • Evaluate management options and proceed with eradication efforts or containment/mitigation activities. See control methods
  • Consider cost, timetable, and water body characteristics for each method

Photo Credit: Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries

Rapid Response in Action: Lake George, New York

Divers search for invasive mussels in Lake George in response to citizen reports. Photo Credit: Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute

When larval zebra mussels were found in Lake George in 1995, a comprehensive management and rapid response plan was put in place. Representatives from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute worked with citizen stakeholders and local officials to convene a response team, which was called into action following the discovery of adult mussels in 1999. After determining the extent of the infestation, the team decided that manual removal by SCUBA divers would be the timeliest and most cost-effective control method. For 7 years, volunteer-led dive teams manually pulled mussels from the lake. Since the removal efforts concluded in 2007, there has been no successful recruitment of zebra mussels at the site where they were originally discovered. The success of management actions at this site was due in no small part to the rapid response protocols previously put in place. For more on the Lake George management project, check out our webinar – Case Studies in Manual Removal of Invasive Species.

Phase Two: Extended Response

Initial response rarely results in immediate eradication of an invasive mussel population, especially when detection occurs long after establishment took place. To minimize impact, it is important to maintain long-term adaptive management strategies and to continue to monitor the success of control methods.

Using an adaptive management framework allows resource managers to iteratively adapt control methods in response to new information

Stages of Extended Response and example actions

  • Continue to implement control methods identified in initial response
  • Maintain prevention programs to inhibit establishment of new populations

Photo Credit: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks


  • Monitor invasive mussel populations in response to control actions
  • Compile data and evaluate effectiveness

Photo Credit: University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources


  • Identify research gaps that may limit effectiveness of current control methods
  • Work with interagency partners and research institutions to carry out research

Photo Credit: University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources

  • Use results of monitoring and research to adjust control methods
  • Share successes/challenges with outside groups

Photo Credit: Texas Parks & Wildlife

  • Engage with members of the public to educate about invasive mussel control and work to build a concerned, active, and informed citizenry

Photo Credit: New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission

Informing Adaptive Management: Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center

An MAISRC researcher examines zebra mussel veligers through a microscope. Photo Credit: Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center

Zebra mussels arrived in Minnesota from Lake Superior in 1989 and have since spread to over 150 of the state’s water bodies. Though the complete eradication of invasive mussels from Minnesota’s waters is highly unlikely, state agencies and universities have remained committed to performing research to improve mussel management. The University of Minnesota’s Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) is currently searching for ways to make control methods more effective and sharing the results of their work with resource managers. Example research includes completing a draft genome sequence of the zebra mussel to isolate genetic weaknesses that can be targeted for control and characterization of the microbial community associated with zebra mussels to identify pathogens that may be used for biocontrol. The MAIRSC is working to incorporate this type of research into toolkits that resource managers can use to inform their adaptive management plans. For information see the MAISRC website.

Resources & Publications

Zequanox Application Technique Pilot Study on Lake Erie

Megan M. Weber, Marrone Bio Innovations; Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

Zebra Mussels Invade Ontario Waters

Ontario's Invading Species Awareness Program

Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed: A Regional Management Plan

The Regional Dreissena polymorpha Working Group, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection