OSU finds invasive species on Japanese dock on Oregon coast

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OSU found these sea worms on a Japanese dock that traveled across the Pacific Ocean to Newport. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)
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More than 90 species hitchhiked across the Pacific Ocean after tsunami

When a 66-foot dock washed up on Oregon's coast as debris from Japan's 2011 tsunami, Oregon State University scientists inspected it for invasive species, which can cause ecological and economic damage.

They identified more than 90 unique creatures, including barnacles, algae and northern Pacific sea stars. At least 10 are known to be invaders in other parts of the world.

Researchers say that the danger from harmful hitchhikers may not be known for years. They fear they could reproduce and breed with similar local organisms, disrupting the native ecosystem. They might also bring new parasites.

Expelling or managing an established invasive species nationally costs $6 billion for invasive fish and $122 million for aquatic weeds annually, which includes the economic impacts of commercial production losses and declining native species. Zebra mussels, for example, can clog water-intake pipes, filtration equipment and power-generating facilities, costing more than $1 billion per year.

Sources: OSU Sea Grant Extension aquatic invasive species specialist Sam Chan; Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife; Oregon Invasive Species Council.

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