Invasive species bill introduced to Alaska legislature

In February, Representative Paul Seaton of Homer introduced House Bill 89 to the Alaska legislature. This bill, if passed, would direct the state’s Department of Fish and Game to set up a plan for an interagency rapid response to an invasion of non-native species. The bill called for funding to support the response efforts.

The bill passed through the House Fisheries and Resource Committees unopposed and was still in its final House committee, Finance, when the legislature adjourned. The council expects the committee to take it up when the legislature reconvenes in January and pass it. So far there has been no opposition to the bill, except for the fact that it will require a modest short-term expenditure to draft an interagency response plan.

Aquatic invasive species are a well-known problem in Alaska. Once introduced, aquatic invaders are difficult to eradicate, and can have a permanent effect on the environment including catastrophic damage to local fisheries.

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.

The council is particularly concerned about invasive species such as European green crab which can potentially travel in the ballast water of oil tankers and be released into Prince William Sound.

For more on aquatic invasive species in Prince William Sound, visit our Marine Invasive Species page.