Invasive species are a concern throughout Alaska – whether they be the terrestrial kind like troublesome orange hawkweed or other rapidly spreading invasive plants, tunicates found in salt water near Sitka or the freshwater waterweed (i.e., Elodea) rapidly expanding in the Chena Slough area near Fairbanks.
For that reason the Native Village of Napaimute and the Kuskokwim River Water Council have come up with a poster that will be posted locally in the villages and regional float plane lakes; it will also be sent to all the guides and outfitters that bring out-of-state clients to the Kuskokwim tributaries who have the potential for bringing an unwanted invasive to the region.
Here is a letter sent to the outfitters and guides:
My name is Dave Cannon and I’m the Environmental Director for the Native Village of Napaimute located on the Kuskokwim River about 30 miles upriver of Aniak.
Several years ago I was the Invasive Plant Coordinator for the middle Yukon-Kuskokwim Region but prior to that I was mostly involved with fish issues since I’m a fish biologist. I learned that not too long ago most Alaskan botanists didn’t think invasive plants were a big concern due to our remoteness and severe climate. Unfortunately, they know differently now. My exposure to the world of invasive plants really opened my eyes as to just how problematic invasives can be – even here in the more the more remote parts of the state. Of particular concern is reed canarygrass that has the potential to reduce salmon spawning habitat.
Having worked in the lower 48, I was familiar with whirling disease that was prevalent in Colorado, Montana and other Western states as well as the typical hatchery related diseases (e.g., BKD or bacterial kidney disease) since I worked at the Jackson National Fish Hatchery in Jackson Hole, Wyoming prior to being the fish biologist for the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in Bethel.
There are numerous ongoing efforts to minimize the threats. While in Bethel I participated in a National Wild Fish Health Survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service where we collected baseline tissue samples on rainbow trout in the Kisaralik River; this study was partly driven by the concern over whirling disease. Fortunately, no diseases were found at that time.
I probably don’t have to dwell then on what the concerns are, but in one Montana study 40% of the anglers did not clean their equipment between uses (Gates et al. 2006). In another study on aquatic invasive species transport via trailered boats,the authors found that although fishing guides moved among waterways with a greater frequency than anyone else, they often employed less-than-ideal boat cleaning practices…mostly due to inconvenience.
It is our hope that everyone involved will take the extra time to reduce the threat of introducing unwanted organisms to the Kuskokwim drainage so that we never have to deal with such things as whirling disease, rock snot or Elodea (a type of a water weed). I’ve attached a poster in pdf format expressing our concern and suggestions for ways to minimize the potential for unwanted introductions.
Here are some simple guidelines to follow above and beyond what’s on the poster:
CLEAN DRAIN DRY
CLEAN – Rinse and remove all visible mud, plants, fish/animals from boats, trailers, float plane rudders and floats, and gear
DRAIN – Drain water from coolers, floats, bilge pumps, buckets, and wring out gear before leaving the boat launch or fishing area
DRY – Completely dry equipment and gear between visits to different waterbodies
*Never release plants, water, fish, or animals into a body of water*
Please feel free to E-mail or call me if you have any questions. If you would like a printed version of the poster to display in a prominent location please contact me and we’ll send one out. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
Native Village of Napaimute for the Kuskokwim Watershed Council
P.O. Box 355, Aniak, AK 99557
(907) 675-4443 © 676-0012
Gates, K. K., K. Meehan, and C. S. Guy. 2006. Angler movement patterns and the spread of whirling disease in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Association of Pacific Coast Geographers, Sacramento, California. Available: www.wou.edu/pacifica. (February 2007).
Rothlisberger, J.D., W.L. Chadderton, J. McNulty, and D.M. Lodge. 2010. Aquatic invasive species transport via trailered boats: What is being moved, who is moving it, and what can be done. Fisheries 35 (3): 121-132.