Invasive Species Council chief: Organisms on Japanese debris are ‘severe’ threat

tsunamispeciesOLYMPIA — The head of the state’s Invasive Species Council said Friday that marine organisms arriving on tsunami debris from Japan present a direct threat to shellfish growers along Washington’s coast.

“This is a multi-species problem,” said Bill Tweit, president of the council, adding that the large dock that washed up on Oregon’s coast carried nearly 30 Japanese organisms, some of them a clear threat.  “There’s a lot of different invasive species on those docks. We’re very concerned at this point.”

Tweit said they have identified at least three high-risk specis – Asian shore crabs, which can decimate fish populations; wakame algae, which can choke and ecosystem; and mussels, which can be carrying diseases that threaten other shellfish.

They “very quickly dominate and fundamentally change an ecosystem, far faster than the ecosystem itself can cope with, or the creatures that live in the ecosystem,” he said.

Because these are a direct threat to shellfish growers in Washington, Tweit said his office is mobilizing people to respond to reports of anything unusual that washes ashore.

“We know this is a big threat, this is severe, it’s an unprecedented threat; we know we’re going to have to deal with it,” he said.

If you think you’ve found tsunami debris on our coast, here’s what you should do: Check for any identifying markers, but don’t touch debris if it looks hazardous or is too big to move. You can send an email to disasterdebris@NOAA.gov    And if you snap pictures, send them to us at TIPS@q13fox.com.

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