Invasive species in Alaska waters pose threat

Hats off to Rep. Paul Seaton of Homer.

Seaton has introduced legislation, House Bill 89, that directs the state Department of Fish and Game to set up a rapid response plan to deal with incipient aquatic invasions. Other state agencies with responsibilities for the health of state waters would be drawn in, as well. Seaton’s measure also establishes an aquatic invasive species fund.

Aquatic invasive species are a well known problem in Alaska and it’s high time for such action here, in perhaps the most marine and freshwater-dependent state in the country. Once introduced, aquatic invaders are difficult to eradicate, and can have a permanent effect on the environment including catastrophic damage to local fisheries.

One example of an aquatic invasion: In June 2010, researchers discovered Didemnum vexillum — also known as “rock vomit” — in Whiting Harbor near Sitka. This species, which can cover large areas of the seafloor, is an aggressive invader and a potential threat to shellfish farms, groundfish fisheries, fish spawning and other resources.

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