The B.C. government shouldn’t be hiding its head in the sand, particularly when that sand might contain invasive animals or plants that could spread and harm our coastal ecosystems.
Since debris from the March 2011 tsunami in Japan started floating toward the west coast of North America, scientists have been concerned about invasive species hitchhiking on the debris. When a massive chunk of a Japanese dock beached near Newport, Oregon, in June 2012, it was found to be covered with thousands of organisms forming a 15-centimetre layer.
Among those examining tsunami debris for potentially harmful organisms is John Chapman of Oregon’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. He is concerned that he has received no information about debris on B.C.’s coast. The province’s official plan for dealing with the problem urges people to report suspect debris to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website.
It’s 965 kilometres by air from Victoria to Stewart on the Alaskan border, but between those two points is a convoluted coastline that totals nearly 26,000 kilometres. It would be impossible to patrol every nook and cranny in search of the wrong kind of seaweed or mussel, but spot checks could reveal potential problems.
The risk of foreign species invading our coves and bays might not be high — after all, debris from Japan washing up on our beaches is nothing new — but it’s a real risk with the potential for considerable harm. Retrieving samples of debris and testing them would be wise.
The information collected from spot checks would be useful here, as well as to scientists elsewhere, even if those checks revealed no problems.
Preventing an invasive species from getting a foothold now is a lot easier and less expensive than getting rid of it later.
© Copyright 2013