skip navigation
Support KUOW
KUOW News

Tunicates

Ann Dornfeld
05/29/2008

Slimy, hungry invaders are moving through Puget Sound. They're called invasive tunicates, or sea squirts. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is trying to get rid of them but as KUOW's Ann Dornfeld reports, it may be too late.

SEA SQUIRTS ARE TRANSLUCENT TUBE–LIKE ANIMALS A COUPLE INCHES LONG. THE INVASIVE SPECIES ARRIVED OVER THE PAST DECADE FROM ASIA AND EUROPE. SEA SQUIRTS GET THEIR NAME FROM THE WAY THEY EAT: THEY SUCK WATER IN, FILTER OUT THE PLANKTON, THEN SQUIRT THE WATER OUT. THEY COMPETE FOR PLANKTON WITH EVERYTHING FROM TUBE WORMS TO MUSSELS. THE PROBLEM IS THAT NOTHING EATS THE INVASIVE SEA SQUIRTS. AND THEY REPRODUCE EVERY 24 HOURS.

JANNA NICHOLS LEADS VOLUNTEER DIVES TO SURVEY AND COLLECT INVASIVE TUNICATES.

AMBI: "Okay you guys are good to go when you're ready!"

ON A RECENT DIVE IN HOOD CANAL, NICHOLS FIRST THOUGHT THE SEA SQUIRTS HAD DISAPPEARED.

NICHOLS: "But, as soon as we got up over the top of the wall and started going up the cobble slope, they were everywhere! They were all over the place."

IF THE INVASIVE TUNICATES AREN'T STOPPED, THEY COULD WIPE OUT OTHER FILTER FEEDERS… AND STARVE OUT BIGGER FISH.

THE STATE IS SENDING DIVERS BENEATH PUGET SOUND MARINAS WITH ORDERS TO KILL EVERY INVASIVE TUNICATE THEY SEE. PAM MEACHAM IS WITH THE AQUATIC NUISANCE SPECIES DIVISION. SHE RECALLS A DIVE TWO YEARS AGO.

MEACHAM: "I drive a full–sized Chevy pickup truck. After two hours of diving we hauled off about 1200 pounds of tunicates."

MEACHAM SAYS THE GOAL IS TO CLEAN THE SEA SQUIRTS FROM BOAT HULLS SO AT LEAST BOATERS WON'T CARRY THE INVADERS TO NEW HABITAT. FOR THE AREAS ALREADY INVADED, SHE SAYS, THERE'S NOT MUCH THEY CAN DO. ANN DORNFELD, KUOW NEWS.

℗ Copyright 2008, KUOW News

09.26.17

Schedules

spacer