On Saturday, Julie Matweyou, marine advisory program agent in Kodiak, filled in about a dozen Kodiakans about the dangers of invasive species that might be floating with the garbage from Japan.
“At tis time, most of the agencies are worried about the debris — the plastics, the buoys, the hazardous waste,” she said, “but a lot more stuff is coming our way.”
Invasive species are nothing new in Alaska. Unusual things are frequently carried in ballast water or on the hulls of visiting boats, but the Japanese tsunami caused a literal wave of organisms to begin moving toward the United States.
One of the biggest concerns, explained Matweyou, is an organism called “sea vomit,” an orange-yellow fungus grows rapidly and has already colonized a harbor in Sitka.
There, the concern is that the sea vomit will smother commercially valuable herring eggs.
There have been no reports of sea vomit in Kodiak, and there have been no reports of any other “species of concern,” Matweyou said, but the state is stepping up its outreach efforts to ensure that if invasive species do arrive, containment and eradication can begin as soon as possible.
This spring, the Alaska Legislature granted the Alaska Department of Fish and Game the authority to fight aquatic invasive species, just as the department has been fighting invasives ashore.
The annual Alaska invasive species conference will be held in Kodiak this year, offering another opportunity to coordinate resources.
Most of the fight against invasive species will be done by ordinary Alaskans, however. “The idea is to at least be on the lookout for these things and know these things are coming,” Matweyou said. “What they’re asking is if you see something and it has organisms on it, pull it out of the water or at least beyond the high-tide line.”
If you see a piece of debris from Japan and it has an unusual organism stuck to it, take a picture with your cellphone, Matweyou advises. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s invasive species program can be reached at dfg.dsf.InvasiveSpecies@alaska.gov or by calling 1-877-INVASIV.