NEWPORT, Ore. - Experts who studied debris from the Japanese tsunami that's washed up on the Oregon Coast said the potential damage from invasive species may not be known for years.
Oregon State University researchers have seen algae, barnacles, mussels, starfish, snails and other organisms that are found only in Asia.
"These are guests that we didn’t invite and they’re gonna do whatever they like. And we already know that we can’t predict what they’re going to do," said OSU researcher John Chapman, who is a marine invasive species specialist at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.
Chapman said as many as 175 different species hitched a ride from Asia's western Pacific on the dock that washed up in Newport in June of 2012, and more than half of the sea creatures came off the dock before it hit the beach.
Some of the species that hitchhiked aboard the debris may have also reproduced during the journey, and spread into waters off the West Coast, according to scientists. That increases the chance they could turn into invasive species.
Chapman said he and other researchers will investigate the potential problem, that could develop over years and even decades.
"We want to know how much stuff is coming, we want to measure this so we can see how bad this thing is. I hope that we’re immune, that nothing is going to happen. But I think that would be a very optimistic view."