A couple of days ago, I had an interesting experience that I thought I should share.
So, in case you don’t know, right now I’m staying at my family’s cottage in Ontario. It’s a beautiful old wood log cottage, right next to a beautiful lake. the kind you see on postcards. So, as a family, we like to spend as much time up here as possible. I’d like to highlight all of my family, but for the purpose of this story, the most important person is my Uncle Rob.
Uncle Rob is an aquatic ecologist, meaning he knows a lot about lakes and spends a lot of time in them. He was snorkeling around in the lake when he found mussels. A lot of them, in fact. So, he decided to harvest some so we could try eating them. After a quick google search to make sure we weren’t going to get poisoned, we started to prepare them. And as the mussels cooked, Rob told us about something happening in one of our neighbor lakes, Lake Simcoe.
You may not know this, but mussels place in nature is that of the cleaner. Mussels eat algae, too much of which makes lakes dirty. They do a pretty good job of it too. And because of their hard shell, not many predators try to get at them. But their biggest worry (at least in Lake Simcoe) isn’t predators. It’s invasive species of mussels, the Zebra mussel, and the Quagga Mussel. They came into the Great Lake system in the bilge water and on the bottom of boats from Europe and Asia. These new mussels quickly began forcing the indigenous mussels out of their own habitat. Also, these mussels filter water at a much quicker rate. And while that might seem like a good thing, algae is an important part of the ecosystem, as it is food for fish as well. All said, they caused massive damage to Lake Simcoe. Luckily, as far as we know there are no invasive mussels on our lake.
As Rob wrapped up his story, the mussels were ready. Within minutes, we were all at the table, ready to dig in on our delicious meal. Expect not quite. The mussels were not good. They were plain, chewy, and left a strong muddy aftertaste. Not great. We soon figured out that the mussels from our lake tasted like, well, our lake. And the conversation quickly evolved into how to make our lake cleaner. Without the invasive mussels. I’ll keep you posted.