WASHINGTON - Washington state officials are worried about sea life washing up on coastlines after marine species from Japan were found along the Oregon coast this week.
A dock that was torn away during Japan's earthquake and tsunami in 2011 was found on a popular Oregon beach Wednesday.
The washed-up dock was covered in seaweed, sea grasses and several marine species native to Japan, but not to the U.S. West Coast.
“This dock is a wakeup call,” said Allen Pleus, who monitors invasive species for the Washington Department of Fish and Game in Olympia.
Wildlife authorities in Oregon destroyed the sea animals and plant life found on the dock.
Pleus said he and other scientists have expected Japanese sea life would die during the yearlong journey to Oregon, which is 5,000 miles away. He said the fact that the creatures survived the journey is scary.
“It’s our worst fear to see something of this size, having this complexity of marine ecosystems on it, to come into our shore,” Pleus said.
According to Pleus, it was fortunate the dock washed up where marine life could be destroyed and the dock could be disinfected.
The dock crashed onto Washington’s rockier coastline, and the species could have found new homes perfect for breeding.
“Most of these organisms like to attach to hard surfaces. A beach isn’t a good place for that; rocky shores are perfect,” Pleus said. “They can reproduce fairly quickly and outnumber the native species and take over that habitat.”
State officials said there is no way to know when or where tsunami debris will appear on Washington shores or how dangerous to the ecosystem it may be.
Anyone who finds debris should report it immediately.