Muskies. Muskellunge. No matter what you call them, they are not welcome in Alaska. Ever.
Muskies are not native to Alaska and pose an extremely serious threat to our native species that are so critical to our Alaska way of life – specifically, our salmon.
Recently, biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), Division of Sport Fish found a small population of these illegally-introduced fish on the Kenai Peninsula during surveys of a close relative, the northern pike, a known widespread invasive species in Southcentral. Numerous muskies of varying ages were found, making this discovery important because these fish were reproducing, which is a terrifying thought.
Before we go further, I’d like to make it clear what distinguishes an invasive species verses a non-native species, because we have both in Alaska. As defined by the International Union of Conservation of Nature, an invasive species is a species that has been introduced to an environment where it is non-native, and whose introduction causes environmental or economic damage or harm to human health. Muskies, because of how predatory they are, could very easily damage fisheries in the same way northern pike have, and become an invasive species here.
In Alaska, we are fortunate to have world-class fisheries that we at ADF&G are constitutionally mandated to protect. Illegal introductions of species, such as the muskie, put these world-class fisheries at risk, especially if they were to make their way into on our world-famous salmon-bearing rivers on the Kenai Peninsula.
The muskies that were found on the Kenai Peninsula got to Alaska by only one means: intentional human actions. The nearest native population of muskies is in Manitoba Canada, making it virtually impossible that they could get to Alaska through natural migration.
Selfish actions by those that intentionally bring potential invasive species into our state for their own benefit continue to put our world-class salmon fisheries at risk.
Over the last several years, ADF&G has put millions of dollars towards the elimination of invasive species, most notably, northern pike on the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage and in the Mat-Su, all because of the “Johnny Appleseed’s” or “bucket biologists” who intentionally, and illegally, move live fish species to parts of Alaska where they don’t belong.
What may appear to be innocent actions, with no ill-intent, can raise havoc on our Alaska way of life, our local and state economies, and impact our ability to manage our fisheries for sustainability that benefits future generations.
If you choose to participate in subsistence, sport, commercial, or personal use fisheries, or even if you don’t choose to fish, invasive species can ultimately threaten the way of life of every Alaskan.
Introducing any non-native species into Alaska is against the law. Violation of these laws can result is significant fines and potentially jail time if the violator is convicted. State of Alaska misdemeanor penalties can range from fines up to $10,000, jail time, and even requiring that restitution be made to cover the cost of eradication, which could total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars! Federal law has similar repercussions for violators. Non-native species introductions are taken very seriously and are actively investigated with genetics and other technologies, similar to forensic analyses used for other crimes.
At the Alaska Department of Fish and Game we firmly believe that lawful anglers do not intend to introduce invasive species into our waters.
However, we must act aggressively to prevent these occurrences. Preventing invasive species problems before they occur is, by far, the most cost-effective option. But, when infestations occur, early detection is key to stopping the spread of invasive species.Your help is needed!
Please report any suspected invasive species immediately. Reporting can be done by several means. You can report on the department website at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=invasive.report or by calling the Invasive Species Hotline: 1-877-INVASIV (1-877-468-2748), or by calling your local Fish and Game office.
As Director of the Division of Sport Fish, I am committed to ensuring that our native fisheries are protected from the threats of invasive species across Alaska. I strongly encourage each Alaskan to join me in the fight to keep our native fisheries productive and sustainable. I want our kids, and grandkids, to have the same amazing opportunities that I’ve had to enjoy our world-class fisheries into the future.