RE: NANFA-L-- freshwater mollusc pages

Crail, Todd (tcrail-in-UTNet.UToledo.Edu)
Fri, 25 Nov 2005 15:03:27 -0500


From: on behalf of David Smith

What possible use would a book about Ohio mussels be since no one is allowed
to possess a mussel (even a shell found dead ) in Ohio without a permit.
Personally I don't even look-in-them anymore. The few that I have I plan to
give to Ohio State.

Dave Smith

I totally appreciate your frustration Dave. And this is something that
hopefully will change in Ohio in the near future. A major part of Jeff and my
permit was to produce as much educational material out of the permit to make a
case for non-agency or non-academic people to be permitted to posses abandoned
valves. Once we've demonstrated the use of that permit, the mileage we've
gotten out of that permit, it may become a possibility down the road that a
far less beauracratic process is involved to get an educational permit to
collect abandoned valves and teach yourself, others about this fantastic piece
of our natural history.

It was really driven home to me two weeks ago, when one of the people I'd
provided a "learning collection" to through our permit handed me valves of two
species that were very interesting in the Lower Maumee because he was able to
see through all the noise of the common stuff. I'd surveyed the site before
and had walked right by them again. Hopefully annecdotes like these will
catch some attention and ease in some changes.

But we have to see it from their side first so we can avoid demonizing them
for making possession of a little "seashell" seem like Corporate Accounting
Fraud :) A little about that... well, maybe a lot, read if you're that
interested :)

The DNR has a resource they have to protect, they do not issue liscences for
collection such as TN and AL, which regulate and manage their annual mussel
catch. Therefore, in Ohio, there's no money involved for protection and study
of populations that are sensitive. The most cost effective thing for them to
do is ban possesion of any.

Now... Is it justified? After what I saw this year-in-Harpersfield Dam on the
Grand River, I have to say that it is. We were there in May for our annual
NANFA and Cleveland Aquarium Society trip, there was a large, rich population
of mussels present with species age classes of live animals, and hordes upon
hordes of abandoned valves. If I remember correctly, our fresh kill species
count (Excluding weathered and sub fossil specimens) was 19 (I remember being
ticked that it didn't cross 20 ;).

I went back in September as a guide for a lab mate doing Global Image System
work on riparian cooridoors and land use. We stopped there as he used to be a
field tech in his home country of Brazil working with marine mollusks. I
thought I'd show him some easily accessed Ohio Style valves... To my horror,
ANY sign of the ENTIRE population had been removed. GONE. We had to walk
what I am guessing was over 1/2 mile downstream to get beyond the reach of
collectors. Once we were beyond the reasonable walk for people, poof, there
they were. Just as rich as what we'd seen upstream. It was totally picked up
and moved to who knows where... And I'm sure the majority of it wasn't for any
illegal purpose. They thought it was pretty and took it home.

Imagine if this Harpersfield site was the last known live location for a Fed
Endangered animal in the state. That's what they're dealing with on the lower
Muskingum, and why you see so many signs saying it's illegal to remove them.

Additionally, the Muskingum is closer to where people have infrastructure to
sell the valves... There are people who drive up from KY and TN to poach the
Ohio River tribs.

I've seen evidence of this on the Scioto, where there's no signage and the
general public isn't even aware of this issue. We stopped-in-a site around
Circleville, just downstream from the Darby where we found plenty of
sub-fossil specimens (including Fed listed riffleshell and clubshell), small
species fresh kills such as fawnsfoot and round hickorynut, and then a horde
of busted pieces of papershells and floaters (which whole ones may have been
taken by kids out fishing this gravel bar with their dads). Twelve river
miles north, we can go to Mackey Ford Access and see tons of thick shelled
fresh kills, and the water quality only increases where the Darby enters to
the south? Not to mention... You never see fresh round hickorynut solo in
compromised situations. They're beta diversity that show up long after the
usual suspects have been in business for a while. I'd say that's pretty
overwhelming evidence for poaching.

So looking from our persepective... It seems like the DNR wants to ban all
people from taking mussels. From the DNR's perspective... It seems like all
people want to take mussels.

We need to ease this gap in understanding. An idea this summer as I returned
from French Creek in PA was to set up a website where amateur naturalists can
gather their information and make it a place where agencies and academics
would be silly to not look. I was thinking something like "Rafinesque: The
Return" in an Indiana Jones kind of banner font :) It would be a place where
they could upload field hand shots of items of interest, get id's on stuff
they don't know, etc. Dunno if I'll get to it... Hope I can find time because
I think it would be incredibly useful, if people use it. Maybe something to
put together as a proposal once we have some "Xs of the Maumee River" websites
put together so it takes less vision to see.

>From the academic side... They're all just too danged busy between what they
have to accomplish career wise and then deal with the tangents of agencies
dumping huge collections that "need" identified and stored in all of their
free time, and the casual observer walking in off the street wanting to know
what another common mussel is (which I would encourage you to NOT try and turn
in your collection to OSU, because it is highly likely you will walk away
feeling very put off or shuffled). I've had trouble getting people's
attention with a newly discovered LAKE _population_ of a Fed Cat 2 mussel (the
purple liliput)! And I'm like sorta academic and will probably be agency and
have had direct contacts through networking with people who are such!

So don't get discouraged. Mussels of Ohio will be a great book, a useful
resource and hopefully a guide to many naturalist amateurs out there wandering
our state's streams!

The Turkey Hangover Madness!
It's never too late to have a happy childhood.
/ This is the discussion list of the North American Native Fishes
/ Association (NANFA). Comments made on this list do not necessarily
/ reflect the beliefs or goals of NANFA. For more information about NANFA,
/ visit Please make sure all posts to nanfa-l are
/ consistent with the guidelines as per
/ To subscribe, unsubscribe, or get
/ help, visit the NANFA email list home page and archive at