Plate Watch: What to do if you find a non-native marine species?

Overview Summary

  1. Make sure to upload your data to the website , with good close up pictures of the suspected non-native(s)
  2. Confirm the identification with taxonomists through SERC (email
  3. Inform the Alaska Invasive Species Program for Alaska Fish and Game (call 877 468 2748)
  4. Assess desire/ability to expand monitoring for the species
  5. Implement additional surveys
    1. dock, intertidal, subtidal
    2. Putting out additional plates

Alaska has thousands of miles of coastline and very few invasive species. SERC’s Plate Watch program is focused on ensuring the future of Alaska’s natural biological biodiversity and encouraging stewardship of Alaska’s coastal areas by the communities and individuals who live there. Protecting native diversity of coastal habitats helps preserve species that indigenous cultures depend on, the marine areas where many Americans recreate, and the Alaska fisheries that are an important part of the nation’s economy.

Through Plate Watch, monitors are helping us detect invasive species and learn more about their distributions. Once a species is detected it’s important to gather information about it’s population and spread. This information may help with predictions about where the species may spread in future, and help us learn how to control it. If detection is early enough, it may even be possible to eradicate the species. So any information that can be gathered is helpful.

Step 1 and 2

The first step is to upload your data and pictures and confirm that the non-native species is actually present by consulting with SERC and expert taxonomists.

Step 3 and 4

Once the identification is confirmed it should be reported to Tammy Davis at Alaska Fish and Game. The Plate Watch coordinator will also do this at the monthly Invasive Species Task Force Meeting. Then we want to determine the extent of the infestation. In this effort we would greatly appreciate the monitors assistance, but this is entirely dependent on the monitor’s time and availability.

Step 5

To get a better idea of the distribution of the species, there are different types of surveys that can be done. The first thing we recommend is that a field survey be carried out in the area where the specimen was found. This entails looking at the submerged parts of the dock the plate was hung on and any hard structures in the water such as floats, buoys, and lines. Next we would recommend an intertidal survey of the shoreline areas near the dock on which the specimen was found to see if it has spread into more natural habitats. An intertidal survey should be done at a very low tide starting at the water line since the species we target do not like to be exposed even for short time frames.

Another option is to do a dive survey. This allows you to see a bit more of the infrastructure of the dock as well as boat hulls, and natural subtidal areas. This should also be timed and could be either qualitative (without measurement of area) or quantitative (with area/distance covered measurements – email us to discuss this further if you are interested). For any survey that is done, whether dock, intertidal or dive subtidal the time spent searching, the number of people searching, the area searched and the number of specimens sighted should be reported on the “Survey” data sheet.

© Smithsonian Environmental Research Center 2017