Marine scientists say dozens of Japanese coastal species hitched a ride across the Pacific Ocean on a floating dock. The likely piece of tsunami debris washed ashore in Olympic National Park last week.
The preliminary list of marine hitchhikers includes 29 species “of Japanese coastal origin.” Several are potentially invasive. National Park Service ecologist Scott Fradkin says he’s concerned about the wilderness environment where the dock landed.
“The Olympic coastline is a biodiversity hotspot,” he explains. “You have more species of marine invertebrates and seaweeds than any other place on the west coast of North America. So it really is a special place. This type of threat, we take very seriously.”
The tsunami debris team collected seaweeds, mollusks, barnacles, worms, and sea anemones from the beached dock. Researchers estimate the list will expand to around 50 different species by the time their examination is completed.
Last summer, another tsunami debris dock washed ashore under much calmer conditions near Newport, Oregon. By comparison, that hulk carried about twice as many different kinds of Japanese plants and critters.
On the Web:
The Tsunami-Generated Floating Dock blog (Oregon State University)