Almost two months after invasive zebra mussels were discovered in imported “moss balls” (actually algae) in a Seattle PetCo store, federal and state agencies are still trying to track the Trojan moss balls and keep the mussels out of vulnerable water bodies, including California’s. So far, contaminated moss balls have been found in 46 states (Virginia, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Hawaii are the exceptions) and most of Canada’s provinces. The US Fish & Wildlife Service has issued detailed guidance for getting rid of the moss balls, summarized as “Destroy, Dispose, Drain,” and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council has followed suit. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Customs and Border Protection, and the US Geological Survey are also involved. Authorities have identified multiple moss ball importers in seven states, some of them in California. Some importers get their stock from Ukraine, a known source of both moss and mussels. Meanwhile, another worrisome invader, the Mediterranean marine alga Caulerpa prolifera, recently turned up in Newport Bay, reinforcing the need for vigilant early detection work. A related species, C. taxifolia, appeared in Southern California earlier, but a multi-agency effort eradicated it in 2006.
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