Coast Guard cutter volunteers help cleanup oyster farm

 

SITKA, Alaska - Coast Guard Cutter Maple crewmembers pause from cleaning up debris from an oyster farm that was damaged by a storm and infested with an invasive tunicate species Nov. 17, 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo illustration by Coast Guard Cutter Maple.

SITKA, Alaska - Coast Guard Cutter Maple crewmembers pause from cleaning up debris from an oyster farm that was damaged by a storm and infested with an invasive tunicate species Nov. 17, 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo illustration by Coast Guard Cutter Maple.

Crewmembers from the Coast Guard Cutter Maple volunteered to assist in the cleanup of an oyster farm Thursday in Whiting Harbor in Sitka, Alaska.  

The farm’s infrastructure was damaged by the recent storm that hit Alaska.

The cleanup was crucial to the safety of marine life due to a newly detected invasive tunicate species known as, Didemnum vexillum, which is a type of sea squirt. It was confirmed to be in Whiting Harbor in August 2010. The Didemnum was found to be on some of the farmer’s infrastructure.

“Our concern was that material that has been distributed within Whiting Harbor could float out of the embayment and result in new populations of the invasive tunicate around Sitka Sound,” said Tammy Davis, invasive species coordinator with Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Since late 2010, Alaska Department of Fish and Game and its partners have been conducting surveys to assess the distribution of the species in the Sitka area, providing information about the organism and its impacts to the environment, educating aquatic farmers in Southeast Alaska, and responding to the infestation at the farm site. 

The colonial ascidians species Didemnum vexillum has been reported from many parts of the world and has drawn attention as a nuisance species because it reproduces rapidly and fouls marine habitats including shellfish aquacultures,  fishing grounds, ship’s hulls, and maritime structures.