A common aquarium plant illegally dumped into Alaskan waters that has adapted to cold weather could threaten wild salmon habitat and cost the commercial fishing industry hundreds of millions of dollars.
A recent study conducted by ISER, the Institute of Social and Economic Research, found that if not managed, the cost of the elodea invasion could cost the commercial sockeye fishing industry $159 million each year. They even say that there is a 5% chance that the costs could exceed $577 million annually.
Elodea is Alaska’s first invasive aquatic plant and has spread across the state in the past decade.
“Ultimately what elodea does is it out-competes other aquatic plants and what it does is it’ll get so thick that it can hinder boats getting through it, float planes getting through. And obviously if it’s that thick the kinds of conditions set up, you can have what we call anoxic conditions where there’s just not enough oxygen in the water to support fish,” said John Morton, Supervisory Biologist at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. “And certainly for things like lake-spawning sockeye salmon, you need gravel beds to put their fish redds in there.”