Freshwater Mussel Conservation
Freshwater mussels, collectively called shellfish, clams, bivalves and unionids, belong to an important group of animals known as molluscs. Mussels occur in a wide variety of aquatic habitats, from small ponds, streams to large lakes and rivers. They provide many natural benefits. Because they are filter feeders, these bivalves rely on water currents to supply nutrients for growth and reproduction. Functioning as natural biological filters, they actually clean our lakes, rivers and streams. Mussels serve as indicators of water quality. All are affected by pollution, although some are more tolerant than others, so they can be used to monitor levels of water borne pollutants. They efficiently remove silt and suspended organic particles and serve as a basis for studying environmental change over time. Mussels themselves serve as food for other animals such as fish, muskrats, raccoons, otters and birds. Their complex life history makes them valuable for research, and they may have many other uses as yet undiscovered.
MICRA formed a Freshwater Mussel Committee, later renamed the Native Mussel Committee, in 1996. MICRA's Freshwater Mussel Committee provided the stimulus for formation of the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society in 1998. MICRA's most recent focus has been on standardizing state regulations related to the commercial harvest of freshwater mussels.