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Great Lakes Now Presents

Episode 1023: Mussel Pains

Invasive mussels are hastening the deterioration of historic Great Lakes shipwrecks, like the submerged Prins Willem V off Milwaukee. Zebra and quagga mussels are also a big problem for water treatment and power plants. But science — and another invader, the round goby—could help fight them.

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Mussel Pains- Episode 1023

Invasive mussels are hastening the deterioration of historic Great Lakes shipwrecks, like the submerged Prins Willem V off Milwaukee. Zebra and quagga mussels are also a big problem for water treatment and power plants. But science — and another invader, the round goby—could help fight them.

 

WHERE WE TAKE YOU IN MARCH



 

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Tuesday, March 30, at 7:30 PM

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In the Month of March on Great Lakes Now

Click the tabs to read descriptions of each feature in Episode 1023.

A diver at the wreck of the Prins Willem V, in Lake Michigan near Milwaukee. From the Milwaukee PBS program “Shipwrecks of Milwaukee”

 

Watch The Feature

Musseling in on Shipwrecks

SEGMENT 1 | Milwaukee, Wisconsin

There are thousands of shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, like the wreck of the Prins Willem V, which sank shortly after leaving Milwaukee in 1954. When the Prins Willem went to the bottom, there were no quagga mussels in Lake Michigan, but now there are an estimated 4.5 trillion. They cover much of the lake bottom, including the wreck of the Prins Willem V and many others. And according to Dr. Russell Cuhel of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Science, they can hasten the deterioration of the wrecks.  

Stressed by currents, for example, during a storm and pulled off,” says Cuhel, “they will pull a small piece of wood along with them.”

Divers are familiar with the sight of mussels taking over these underwater time capsules.

“Most of the shipwrecks in Lake Michigan are completely covered with quagga mussels, and that is really causing the breakdown of the shipwrecks to become accelerated,” says maritime archeologist Tamara Thomsen. “Really, our understanding of those ships also develops over time as new technology becomes available to us, we try to use that to really understand how these ships are, to monitor their status, and then also to protect them for future generations to come visit and enjoy.”

This segment was produced in partnership with Milwaukee PBS. Watch the full-length documentary HERE.  

Here are some other Great Lakes Now stories about shipwrecks:

Invasive mussels cover a variety of surfaces in the Great Lakes. Photo by Great Lakes Outreach Media.

 

Watch The Feature

Loosening Up the Mussels

SEGMENT 2 | Good Harbor Bay, Lake Michigan

An estimated 450 trillion quagga mussels live in Lake Michigan, covering not only shipwrecks, but much of the lake bottom. 

“They were brought into the Great Lakes in the 1980s, via ships’ ballast water from Europe,” says Erika Jensen, interim executive director of the Great Lakes Commission. “They’re small, fingernail-sized mussels, but they create dense colonies, so they create problems for water infrastructure, they clog water intake pipes, they can colonize docks, and boats and other equipment.” 

The mussels have also changed the food web of the Great Lakes, and by colonizing reefs that native fish use for spawning, they can threaten the Great Lakes’ commercial, recreational, and tribal fisheries. One such reef is in Good Harbor Bay, off of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

That’s a fairly significant reproductive area for lake trout like whitefish, says Jeff Tyson, fisheries management program manager with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. “Right now with lake Whitefish, we’ve seen a fairly significant decline in abundance as well as the yield of those species.”

But now, a collection of scientists and researchers are working together in the Invasive Mussel Collaborative. They’re experimenting with a method for ridding areas of the reef of invasive mussels — and the results look promising.

“It uncovered a lot of the substrate that are used by the fish for reproduction,” says Tyson.

Here is some other Great Lakes Now work about invasive mussels:

Harvey Bootsma, Russell Cuhel, and Carmen Aguilar, all of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Science spoke with Great Lakes Now. Great Lakes Now photo.

 

Watch The Feature

Musseling in on Shipwrecks

SEGMENT 1 | Milwaukee, Wisconsin

There are thousands of shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, like the wreck of the Prins Willem V, which sank shortly after leaving Milwaukee in 1954. When the Prins Willem went to the bottom, there were no quagga mussels in Lake Michigan, but now there are an estimated 4.5 trillion. They cover much of the lake bottom, including the wreck of the Prins Willem V and many others. And according to Dr. Russell Cuhel of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Science, they can hasten the deterioration of the wrecks.  

Stressed by currents, for example, during a storm and pulled off,” says Cuhel, “they will pull a small piece of wood along with them.”

Divers are familiar with the sight of mussels taking over these underwater time capsules.

“Most of the shipwrecks in Lake Michigan are completely covered with quagga mussels, and that is really causing the breakdown of the shipwrecks to become accelerated,” says maritime archeologist Tamara Thomsen. “Really, our understanding of those ships also develops over time as new technology becomes available to us, we try to use that to really understand how these ships are, to monitor their status, and then also to protect them for future generations to come visit and enjoy.”

This segment was produced in partnership with Milwaukee PBS. Watch the full-length documentary HERE.  

Here are some other Great Lakes Now stories about shipwrecks:

Videos from Episode 1023

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The Great Lakes Now Series is produced by Rob Green and Sandra Svoboda.