This summer, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed two lakes in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough to control the spread of the freshwater invasive plant Elodea by floatplanes and boats. Clean-up efforts for the two lakes are predicted to cost $1 million.  While the price for clean up is high, the potential damages caused by a failure to eradicate Elodea in Alaska could be even higher, according to a new article co-authored by ISER’s Tobias Schwoerer and published in the Journal of Ocean and Coastal Economics.

elodea spreading in Alaska

Photo by Tobias Schwoerer

The commercial harvest of Sockeye salmon, valued at $344 million in 2018, could be reduced by half if Elodea spread to all suitable bodies of water in Alaska, according to the article. Schwoerer, and his University of Alaska Fairbanks co-authors,  economist  Joseph Little and fisheries scientist Dr. Milo Adkison, estimate annual average damages of $159 million to the commercial fishing industry as sockeye habitats, particularly spawning beds, are degraded by Elodea.

Media mention:

Refuge notebook: Elodea still a threat to salmon in Alaska,” Peninsula Clarion, July 12, 2019.