Invasive species could hitch rides on tsunami debris: experts
Published Saturday, March 9, 2013 7:56PM PST
Monday marks the two-year anniversary of a devastating earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan, and experts are warning that debris washing up on B.C. shores ever since could harbour unwanted visitors.
Though items like home cleaning supplies and kids’ toys are now littering West Coast shorelines, experts are more concerned with small organisms attached to the debris.
Foreign plants and animals could devastate local ecosystems, researchers say, and as coastal communities like Tofino start to see more debris there is growing concern they won’t be able to clean it up fast enough.
"It's not something that small coastal communities can bear alone, so we're looking to other British Columbians and Canadians to help,” said Tofino mayor Josie Osborne.
“Invasive species are a legitimate threat,” said Dolf DeJong, vice president of conservation and education at the Vancouver Aquarium.
“Depending on what it is, and where it is establishes, first of all, it can upset the balance in the natural ecosystem, and that affects biodiversity and the health of our oceans.”
DeJong said invasive species could also have a significant economic impact for B.C. if they force out native species of shellfish, for example.
A dock that washed ashore in Oregon in December contained 15 invasive species and experts have been trying to determine what impact they could have on local ecosystems.
Canadian researchers say they haven’t had the chance to study the problem as closely because they haven’t had access to such a large item with so many organisms on it.
But DeJong urged anybody who sees a foreign object washed ashore to call the aquarium or send in a picture so experts can determine whether it harbours invasive species.
"I think that's the first step in making sure we don't get caught in a wave of debris, is just that ongoing monitoring and checking what's coming in so we can activate as quickly as possible when it arrives,” he said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Scott Hurst