Stopping the Spread of Invasive Species

399px-Zebra_mussel_GLERL_3California’s coastal, estuarine and marine habits are quickly becoming degraded by the influx of aquatic invasive species (AIS).  These non-native species negatively impact natural ecosystems, fisheries, infrastructure, water delivery and flood protection systems, human health, and California’s economy. The OPC is working with numerous partners to prevent new introductions of AIS and improve the state’s ability to detect new introductions and respond to them quickly.  

AIS threaten the diversity or abundance of native species through competition for resources, predation, parasitism, interbreeding with native populations and transmittal of diseases. They can also cause physical or chemical changes to the invaded habitat – such impacts are also exacerbated with the onset of climate change. Through their impacts on natural ecosystems, water delivery, and flood protection systems, AIS may also negatively affect human health and the economy.

The tiny young of invasive shellfish or a fragment of an aquatic weed can be enough to start off a population that could ultimately become a multi-million dollar headache for California. However, these populations do not grow from a few individuals to damaging levels overnight, and if populations are detected early enough, there is the possibility that they can be eliminated before they cause damage and population control costs. Early detection and rapid response are the most effective and cost efficient responses to invasive species, after prevention.

In 2005, the OPC provided funding and staffing to complete the California Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan. The OPC is now working with state agencies on implementing the plan, which identifies the actions that need to be taken to minimize the harmful environmental, economic, and human health impacts of AIS in California. In particular, the OPC has provided funding for the Vector Risk Assessment Studies that will examine the top six introduction pathways for AIS that currently lack robust management programs, (e.g., recreational boats and aquariums) and will provide recommendations for how to eliminate or reduce these types of introductions.  The OPC is also working with the California Research Bureau to examine current gaps in state law that could be addressed to more comprehensively manage AIS in the future.

The OPC, in coordination with the Department of Fish and Game and other agencies, has also established a California Agency AIS Team (CAAIST) dedicated to implementing the state plan and to improving California’s approach to reducing AIS introductions and detecting and responding to those that are introduced. One of the priority actions of the CAAIST is to develop a statewide approach to early detection. In a related effort, the OPC is working with the OPC Science Advisory Team to conduct a review of the monitoring and early detection programs for coastal AIS in California, with the goal of finding ways to improve early detection for different pathways of introductions of AIS.

If these core actions can be accomplished, it will provide a basis for pursuing additional AIS management priorities highlighted in the AIS plan.

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