Blacksburg, Va. -- Virginia Tech's Freshwater Mussel Conservation Center and Virginia's Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Center in Marion, Va., released several thousand mussels that have been propagated into the Clinch River. Partners in this replenishing project include the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Town of Cedar Bluff, where the restocking took place. The site along Rt. 460 is owned by The Nature Conservancy.
Dick Neves, fisheries professor and director of Virginia Tech's mussel center, said that 1,000 endangered purple bean juvenile mussels, produced by VDGIF's Buller Hatchery, were released, as well as juvenile and adult mussels of three to six species that aren't endangered but had been the filtration workhorses of the Clinch River before the 1998 toxic spill that killed most aquatic life on that stretch of the river. Also released were the adults of the fluted kidney shell mussel, which is a federal candidate for the endangered list, and stocking adults of rabbitsfoot mussels, which are endangered.
Why are mussels so important? Mussels are key indicators for water quality. They help clean the water by filtering and providing food for fish and other river animals. Virginia Tech was the pioneer in developing the propagation technology now successfully being used across the nation to restore mussel populations.
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