9,000 mussels released into Nottoway

Published 12:47 am Saturday, November 26, 2011

FRANKLIN—The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries recently released nearly 9,000 hatchery-grown freshwater mussels into the Nottoway River.

Brian Watson, a malacologist with the department, said most varieties of freshwater mussels are imperiled and this tactic is to help preserve the species before they become endangered or extinct.

The Nottoway was chosen because of the diversity of mussels found here.

“The Nottoway has 25 species, which is the greatest diversity (of freshwater mussels) outside of western Virginia,” he said.

Divers from the state department as well as members of the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife tagged and released the mussels near the U.S. 258 boat ramp south of Franklin. The group also took female mussels to the Harrison Lake hatchery in Charles City to propagate more young, said Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeeper Jeff Turner.

“It’s like a preventative healthcare kind of thing,” Turner said. “They want to make sure it doesn’t get bad. I think it’s a test too to see how well it works.”

Watson said the project is important because mussels are a sign of a healthy water system because they filter the water as they feed.

“They can filter up to a gallon of water an hour,” Watson said. “They provide a filtering service by taking pollutants out of the water. Water quality goes a long way when talking about human health.”

Watson said the department plans on making return trips to the Nottoway to release more mussels into the local water system. In fact they’ve already released more than 10,000 mussels this year and still have 2,000 to 3,000 more in Charles City waiting to mature in order to be released here.

A return trip to the Nottoway is planned on Dec. 16. The department will release more in the spring and summer.

“It’s a continuous process,” Watson said.