Washington State Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan


Published: October 2001

Pages: 196

Publication number: WDFW 517

Author(s): Pamala Meacham

Executive Summary

The purpose of the Washington State Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan is to coordinate all ANS management actions currently in progress within Washington, and to identify additional ANS management actions, especially those relating to ANS animals. The development of a state management plan is called for in Section 1204 of the National Invasive Species Act of 1996 (Appendix A), which provides an opportunity for federal costâ€"share support for the implementation of state plans approved by the National Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force. Management actions are undertaken and funded by the responsible state agencies.

The Washington State Plan published in December, 1998 was developed by the Washington State Aquatic Nuisance Species Planning Committee. The Washington Exotic Species Work Group of the Puget Soundâ€"Georgia Basin International Task Force represented an important part of the planning committee. Much of their previous work in creating an implementation plan to address ANS issues in the Puget Sound and Georgia Basin was used in the creation of the1998 plan. The draft of the 1998 plan was reviewed by the Task Force, followed by a 30 day public review and comment period. The review process for the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), Chapter 43.21 RCW, determined the plan to have no significant environmental impact.

The Washington ANS Management Plan is focused on the identification of feasible, cost effective management practices to be implemented in partnership with tribes, private, and public interests for the environmentally sound prevention and control of ANS. The objectives identified in the plan are structured to achieve the goal through the implementation of strategic actions and tasks designed to solve specific problems. The plan is periodically revised and adjusted based upon the practical experience gained from implementation, scientific research, and new tools as they become available. The current revision has been developed with the assistance of the Aquatic Nuisance Committee formed by 2000 Washington Legislature for the purpose of fostering state, federal, tribal and private cooperation to prevent the introduction and spread of ANS. The coordinated efforts and cooperative funding outlined in the State ANS Management Plan can enable us to prevent, eradicate or control new introductions more effectively, before they cause major environmental and economic damage.

The management actions outlined in the 1998 plan concentrated on stopping the spread of ANS already present and minimizing the risk of further ANS introductions into Washington waters through all known pathways, particularly animal species. An overview of the implementation of these actions is included in this update under "Accomplishments." This revision identifies new and ongoing actions and broadens the focus to address more species.

The implementation table summarizes the funding, both existing and requested, needed to implement the plan. Implementing the programs outlined in the plan will require a coordinated tribal, Federal, State and private effort, and the dedication of significantly greater funding than is currently available. Introduction


Introduction: Nonindigenous species (NIS) may be released or ‘introduced' into the marine, freshwater, or terrestrial environment intentionally or unintentionally. Most nonindigenous or nonnative species are unable to form self-sustaining populations. However, if such species become established and thrive, they will influence the native flora and fauna and their habitats, and may affect the local economy. Nonnative species often out-compete, prey upon or bring diseases or parasites to economically and ecologically valuable native species, often adversely changing the ecosystem in the process. Such species are considered aquatic nuisance species, or ANS.

RCW 77.60 defines the term aquatic nuisance species as a "nonnative aquatic plant or animal species that threatens the diversity or abundance of native species, the ecological stability of infested waters, or commercial, agricultural, or recreational activities dependent on such waters."
The introduction of ANS into the marine and fresh waters of Washington threatens the ecological integrity of the state's water resources, as well as economic, social, and public health conditions within our state. Because they have few natural controls in their new habitat, ANS spread rapidly, damaging recreational opportunities, lowering property values, clogging waterways, impacting irrigation and power generation, destroying native plant and animal habitat, and sometimes destroying or endangering native species.

The full impact of existing ANS on salmonids is poorly understood. However we do know that heavy infestations of submersed plants, such as Eurasian watermilfoil, lead to decreased levels of dissolved oxygen in waterbodies. In one study, caged steelhead were submersed in beds of milfoil, all the fish died within 24 hours due to low dissolved oxygen levels (Frodge, 1995). Other plants pose physical barriers to salmon migration. In Kitsap County the Navy was called in to blast reed canary grass out of a stream to clear a path for salmon. ANS species like zebra mussels and Chinese Mitten crabs could cause problems for salmonids if they reach Washington.

We must be diligent on monitoring for ANS and responding quickly to invasions. We learned a powerful lesson with the smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora). The cordgrass did not flower for many years, so it wasn't identified when it first started spreading in Willapa Bay. By the time the threat was recognized, the cordgrass was out of hand. Today over 4,000 acres of Spartina alterniflora exist in Willapa Bay alone, and it continues to spread. Without a major multimillion dollar effort, there will be a continued loss of habitat for many native species of fish, clams, shorebirds, and migratory waterfowl, as well as further impacts to the shellfish aquaculture industry. We are learning from our past mistakes.

Washington responded rapidly to the introduction of the European green crab (Carcinus maenas) into coastal waters. The early implementation of monitoring and control efforts in infested bays has kept populations down. The discovery of European green crab on Vancouver Island, British Columbia quickly resulted in a contract with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to assist with the development of a monitoring and control plan in shared waters of British Columbia. Over 100 sites in Puget Sound are monitored for the presence of green crab by volunteers trained by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staff. One of the tasks in the plan is the development of a rapid response plan should green crab be discovered in Puget Sound.

The State has also taken advantage of the opportunity to prevent or prepare for the introduction of the freshwater zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha), which is well suited for survival here. A volunteer monitoring program is in place along the Columbia and Snake Rivers and in several lakes throughout the state. The Washington State Patrol Commercial Vehicle Inspectors are checking commercially hauled boats at entry points into the state for the presence of zebra mussels. Zebra mussels have been found on one boat traveling through Washington into British Columbia. State agencies acted quickly in concert with Canadian authorities to ensure that the boat was not launched until it had been properly decontaminated.

The Washington State Legislature passed legislation in 2000 establishing ballast water management and monitoring guidelines for vessels entering Washington waters. The law makes reporting and open sea exchange mandatory, with certain safety and design limitation exemptions. After July 1, 2002 no vessel will be allowed to discharge ballast water in Washington waters unless it has been adequately exchanged or treated. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is mandated to work with the shipping vessel industry to develop a pilot project to identify and test viable treatment options, to identify an effective method for verifying the adequacy of exchange, and to develop protocols and standards for treated and exchanged ballast water.

Legislation was also passed forming an Aquatic Nuisance Species Committee for the purpose of fostering state, federal, tribal and private cooperation to prevent the introduction and spread of ANS. One of the major roles of this committee is to assist in revising and implementing the state plan. Members of the various subcommittees of the ANS Committee assumed an active role in the current revision of the plan, as did representatives from the many agencies involved in ANS management. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the lead agency assigned to coordinate the drafting of the plan and the Washington State Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator serves as the committee chair. A meeting of the full ANS Committee was convened on April 13, 2001, in Olympia, Washington to review a draft of the revised plan. A list of attendees along with the organizations they represent, and their general comments on the draft are provided in Appendix B. Suggestions generated by this review have been incorporated into the plan, and the plan has been submitted to the ANS Task Force for review.

The coordinated efforts contained within this plan are designed to protect the citizens of Washington from the multitude of losses associated with freshwater and marine ANS animals and plants. The 1998 plan focused on eliminating the threat of accidental ANS introductions. The intentional introduction of nonnative species for aquacultural, commercial, or recreational purposes was addressed to insure that these beneficial introductions would not result in accidental ANS introductions, and to improve information sharing among those agencies responsible for regulating intentional introductions. The focus of this update remains largely the same, with an effort being made to address a broader range of potential pathways for introduction. Tasks outlined in the plan are implemented by and coordinated with ongoing programs managed by the state agencies that have regulatory authority over the species targeted by the task. Every effort has been made to assure that activities identified in the state plan that are carried out in the Puget Sound basin are included in the biennial Puget Sound Water Quality work plan, which is submitted biannually to the legislature and the Governor for funding considerations.

Washington's ANS Management Plan will continue be reviewed and revised biannually, or more frequently if necessary. New ANS threats can arrive unexpectedly. Advances in our knowledge of ANS management techniques could warrant alterations in our management strategies. The specific tasks employed to accomplish our goals and objectives must remain flexible to assure efficiency and effectiveness.

Draft documents

Draft documents are provided for informational purposes only. Drafts may contain factual inaccuracies and may not reflect current WDFW policy.