Biologists checking tsunami dock for invasive species

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by GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on January 4, 2013 at 7:20 PM

SEATTLE -- Washington State and federal biologists were back out on a remote section of Washington’s coast this week getting more samples of plants and animals that hitched a ride across the Pacific on a floating dock thought to be debris from the March 2011 Tsunami that hit Japan. 

It’s the second dock to wash up on the Northwest coast in the past year. The other, which arrived on the Oregon coast, had more than 100 species of plants and animals attached to it, some of which are considered dangerously invasive like the North Pacific Sea Star.

The dock that beached itself in December on a stretch of beach in the Olympic National Park has at least 30 “non-native species of Japanese origin” attached to it, according to Allen Pleus, the Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator for the Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife.

He said the good news is that the most invasive and dangerous species like those identified on the Oregon dock have not yet been found on the Washington dock.

Invasive species are plants and animals that thrive in regions they are not native too, and begin to crowd out or out-compete native species. Invasive species like zebra mussels can plug pipes and directly impact human structures.

Some species found clinging to the dock on Washington's coast include a crab species and barnacle that are typical of the open ocean.

This was the second trip to the dock by scientists.  Samples were taken last time and sent to experts at labs in Oregon, California and Connecticut for definitive identification.  This trip took more samples, 15 bags worth, and scientists also removed nearly 20 rubber bumpers from the dock where other plants and animals were hiding and took samples there. 

Results of the sampling may not be known for several more weeks.

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