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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Japanese Invade North America! War Declared On Invasive Species!

Sounds pretty ominous, huh? It is to some folks, but despite my own concerns, I wonder if it is something to get too concerned about...

According to the latest environmental worries, several species of plant and marine animal have traversed the Pacific Ocean — but aren't there as part of some planned vacation. These travelers are looking to stay.

Holy immigration!

The story actually has a sad cause - the March 11, 2011 9.0 Magnitude earthquake and subsequent massive tsunami that along with people and animals uprooted a lot of debris from Japan and sent it drifting across the Pacific Ocean towards the left coast of the United States of America (and all parts in between).

It is guesstimated by people who like to guesstimate that about 1.5 million tons of debris are on the move, including: houses, cars, ships and even a dock or two, and they are not alone.

Apparently hitchhikers in the form of barnacles (aside from diego.a, does any reader here know what a barnacle looks like?), plankton, shellfish (mussels and clams) and algae are crossing the pond... a fact that has local scientists wondering if these invasive species could disrupt (IE wipe-out) marine eco-systems.  

A 165-tonne dock from Misawa, Japan - encrusted with barnacles - landed near Newport, Oregon, USA in June of 2012.

According to concerned, but unnamed US marine biologists mumbling to the media, 'several non-native species of starfish and algae appear to have survived its 5,000-mile journey.'

I'm going to step out on a limb and say, yes... there is a chance that these invasive creatures and plants could wipe out native ecosystems.

But here's something I don't get. Surely this isn't the first such instance of a tsunami carrying plant and animal life to another location... surely it has happened before?

And so what if this IS the FIRST time it has ever happened? Let me be harsh for a moment. Earthquakes causing tsunami is a natural-occurring event.

Therefore, a tsunami moving wildlife from Point A to Point B and all parts in between... well... that's a natural-occurring event also.

Should we be concerned that native habitats could be compromised and that some creatures could die out? Absolutely.

But, if you believe in Darwinism... this is all part of evolution - a kind of 'survival of the fittest' (I know Darwin talked of 'natural selection', but both kind of mean the same thing). Why should we get involved?

See that photo at the very top of a Sea Gull eating a starfish? Exactly. Survival of the fittest.

Oil spills, pollution, development... these are things that are not Mother Nature natural. 

Yes, the tsunami has caused a large number of species to invade the west coast of North America... and hitching a ride on a man-made object or not, we did not cause   the problem...

A 20-foot Japanese boat covered in barnacles washed ashore in Washington State, USA.

People can argue that these creatures would not have been able to cross if man had not provided the vehicle (via a car, dock, building, tickets on a boat), but who's to say that it wouldn't have come over anyway via fallen trees et al?

I'm just putting that out there as a thought. Of course we don't want to cause the sudden extinction of any creature, so obviously things need to be done to ensure these invasive species do not get a stranglehold out west.

Hey... let me also toss this out there... is it even remotely possible that some of the stronger earthquakes to hit Japan in the 1920s (Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923) or 1930s (1933 Sanriku Earthquake) could have disrupted the food chain which could have affected the food available to the Japanese River Otter? Yes, that critter ate damn near everything, but along with over-development of land and hunting, maybe its food supply was also affected.

Anyhow... invasive species are a pain. In Canada we have zebra mussels and scores of non-native plants choking out our native ones. Australia has Cane Toads from South and Central America, Australia also has a Japanese starfish that is decimating its scallop population.

As for California... San Francisco Bay is probably the most invaded place on the coast, with invading species almost completely displacing native species. There are almost 164 invasive species in San Francisco alone - mostly due to the shipping hubs that are the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California... where the species commonly invade.

So... if a place like San Francisco Bay is already invaded by non-native species... if these 'Japanese' species invaded, would it really be that be a big of a deal?

How do you stop the invasion? You don't... unless the U.S. populace or wildlife suddenly develops a taste for Japanese food ... then you'd probably over-fish it to extinction in the area.

It's worth a shot, because there is no government plan in affect to do anything about it - even if they could.

My plan to eat it into extinction could work. Algae, barnacles and plankton. Eat them up, yum. Fight the invaders! Eat a barnacle!

Andrew Joseph  

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