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Sometimes good things goes wrong!. Providing Direction and Planning for Combating Invasive Species in Alaska. Michele Hebert, Agriculture and Horticulture Agent, UAF Cooperative Extension Service Chair, Alaska Invasive Working Group.

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providing direction and planning for combating invasive species in alaska

Providing Direction and Planning for Combating Invasive Species in Alaska

Michele Hebert, Agriculture and Horticulture Agent,

UAF Cooperative Extension Service

Chair, Alaska Invasive Working Group


Invasive species are causing $ 1.4 trillion in US dollars of loss annually.

All US states, including Alaska, are being affected by invasive species.

While Alaska does not have a major problem with invasive species, they are being introduced at an increasing rate.

Three of Alaska’s major industries, commercial fishing, sport fishing and tourism risk economic loss.

Several agencies currently are working on invasive species issues in Alaska believe that a statewide mechanism is needed.

some all taxa emerging threats
Some All Taxa Emerging Threats:

Alaska is lucky to be at the beginning of what could become very expensive and damaging to fishing, agriculture, and tourism.

Marine Invasive Species of concern:

  • Already here
  • Atlantic Salmon
  • Boring Sponge
  • Dead Man’s Fingers
  • Golden Star
  • Rockweed
  • Violet Tunicate
  • Not yet found in Alaska
    • Atlantic Cord Grass
    • Colonial tunicate
    • Green Crab
    • New Zealand Mud snail
mammals of concern
Mammals of concern:
  • Arctic and Red Foxes on Alaskan Islands (Alopex lagopus & Vulpes vulpe)
    • Introduced to 400 islands by merchants in Russian and territorial days
    • USFWS began eradication efforts on uninhabited islands in 1949, over 40 islands now fox free
    • Fox removal allowed Aleutian Cackling Goose to increase and be removed from endangered species lists.
  • Rats (Norway Rattus norvegicus, Roof rat R. rattus)
    • Introduced by ship wrecks and ports since 1780
    • Predacious on native birds
    • Rat Plan and eradication efforts ongoing
some of the insects of concern
Some of the Insects of concern:
  • Amber-marked Birch Leaf Miner (Profenusa thomsoni)
    • European species introduced into Alaska 1996
    • Defoliators of birch, affected estimated 138,000 acres in 2004 and present in Anchorage and Fairbanks.
    • Host specific parasites released in Anchorage in 2004
  • Asian Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar dispar)
  • Eurasian species, introduced to US in 1868.
  • Tree and shrub defoliator of over 500 species of trees, shrubs and conifers
  • Travel along human transportation networks as eggs, larvae and adults.
  • Trapping and monitoring efforts are ongoing
  • Not currently in Alaska though found 3 times.
pathogens of concern
Pathogens of Concern:
  • Chronic Wasting Disease; transmissible spongiform encephalopathy
    • Found in over 14 states and several provinces
    • Not yet found in Alaskan wildlife or domestic animals
    • Transmittal vectors unknown, no treatments or vaccine available.
    • Affects deer, elk, and moose
    • Causes depression, paralysis, weight loss, pneumonia, and other symptoms that can last for months before death.
  • Late Blight Disease (Phytophthora infestans)
    • Cause of the Irish Potato famine in the mid 1800’s
    • Can spread rapidly over long distances by spores from foliage, and by infected seeds and plants from outside Alaska
    • Three reported cases in Matanuska Valley (none above the Alaska Range)
how invasives are brought in
How Invasives Are Brought in:

Shipping: The diversity of ship traffic in Alaska – oil tankers, commercial freighters, military vessels, fishing vessels, and chip, timber barges – bring in invasive species in ballast water, bilge water or live wells. Port of Valdez, in Prince William Sound receives the third largest volume of tanker ballast water of US ports. Alaska is the only west coast state that has not recently updated its legislation regarding non-native species in the ballast water of ships.

Aquaculture: Fish farming can bring in parasites and disease that damage native fish, a concern with Atlantic farmed salmon.

Agriculture and Horticulture: Imported plants, seeds and other products can carry hitchhikers such as fire blight, Canada thistle and sudden oak disease.

Recreation and Tourism: Pack animals, dogs, vehicles and people can all transport seeds, insects and disease. For example hay brought to feed horses or used as sled dog bedding can be contaminated with weed seeds.

how much do invasive species cost
How much do Invasive Species Cost?

Cost include: increased labor, pesticide/eradication efforts, loss to fisheries and crops and loss of native species.

Potential invasion of the European green crab could be costly to the $117 million shellfish industry.

Since 1949, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has spent roughly $3 million to remove arctic and red fox from some 40 Aleutian islands.

FWS spent at least $400K in two-year efforts to remove abandoned reindeer that overgrazed Hagemeister Island.

Prince William Sound Citizens Advisory Council has spent $500K on ballast water studies.

Forage loss from invasive weeds on pastures amounts to nearly 1 billion in the US along.

Asian long horned beetle has already cost 30 billion dollars to eradicate.

finding solutions opportunities
Finding Solutions/ Opportunities!
  • Alaska has so far experienced fewer invasions than many other states, but we are at a critical point. Human-mediated mechanisms for introduction are increasing, raising the risks of invasive species reaching Alaska’s shores and lands.
  • Alaska’s vast size and varied management of public and private lands and waters demands collaborative efforts to reduce duplication of efforts and increase effectiveness.
  • Almost half of all states in the US have a formalized group to address invasive species.
states with all taxa councils
States with All-Taxa Councils
  • 19 States with Councils
  • Arizona • New York
  • Delaware • Oregon
  • Florida • Pennsylvania
  • Hawaii • Rhode Island
  • Idaho • Virginia
  • Maryland • Washington
  • Minnesota • West Virginia
  • New Jersey • Wisconsin
  • California (2009)
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
alaska invasive species working group aiswg
Alaska Invasive Species Working Group (AISWG)

In the Fall of 2006, 20 state, federal, tribal and non-governmental organizations did sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to create AISWG as a means to improve the collective ability to slow the pace of invasion and its impacts in Alaska.

One of the key goals of AISWG is to help the State of Alaska establish an Alaska Invasive Species Council with a formal structure for continued collaboration, cooperation and communication to minimize invasive species impacts.

AISWG cooperators are already working actively on improving communication by maintaining a list serv, website, and sharing information.

Formation of a unified Council for invasive species management is an important step in coordinating existing resources with in Alaska.

aiswg mou signatories
AISWG MOU Signatories

AK Dept. Environmental Conservation


AK Dept. Natural Resources

AK Dept. of Transportation


USDA Forest Service

USDA Nat. Resource Conservation Service


USDHS Coast Guard

USDI Bureau of Indian Affairs

USDI Bureau of Land Management

USDI Fish and Wildlife Service

USDI Geological Survey

USDI Minerals Management Service

USDI National Park Service

Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council

Prince William Soundkeeper

Alaska Inter-Tribal Council

Alaska Assoc. of Conservation Districts

The Nature Conservancy in Alaska

opportunities for an alaska state invasive species council
Opportunities for an Alaska State Invasive Species Council

•Coordinating the state resources to maximize opportunities to prevent and control invasive species.

•Organize and streamline the interagency process for exclusion, early detection and control.

•To provide policy level direction and planning for managing invasive species and preventing the introduction of others.

•Foster coordination, streamline approaches that support initiative for management.

•Avoiding program duplication by building a strong collaborative approach.

• Form advisory subcommittees with top level support.