Invasive species cost millions to eradicate from Alaska waters
Invasive species in Alaska waters carry a hefty price tag — both in cash and precious fish. After decades of work, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says it may have successfully eradicated northern pike from the last known infested waters on the Kenai Peninsula.
Northern pike were introduced into waters of the Kenai Peninsula in the '70s. The department launched a concentrated effort to eliminate the species in 2008. Now, more than 10 years later, the initiative has tallied $1.5 million.
Fish and Game describes pike as a "sit-and-wait ambush predator," which targets salmon, rainbow trout and Dolly Varden. Pike have already decimated at least one king salmon fishery.
"It's really one of our worst case scenarios with pike," Kristine Dunker, an invasive species fisheries biologist with Fish and Game, said. "Pike got in there, in the Lower Alexander River about 20 years ago, and that fishery went away."
Dunker also said the fish didn't get there by accident. Someone had to introduce the species, an action that is illegal in the state of Alaska.
"There are ecological consequences and economic ones," she said. "The fisheries go away."
While no one was held accountable for what happened in Alexander Creek, Fish and Game hopes the case serves as an example of why introducing fish into the wild can have serious consequences.
"Generally, I don't think it is ill intent," Dunker said. "Sometimes it's kids playing around. Sometimes it's people who just moved to a location and they want to go fish for them."
People who catch a pike anywhere in southcentral Alaska are encouraged to harvest the fish.
If you believe you've encountered an invasive species, you can report it by 1-877-INVASIV.
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