JUNEAU - Trout Unlimited's Alaska Program urged the Board of Fisheries to phase out the use of felt-soled wading products in Alaska as a way to guard against the spread of aquatic invasive species at a March 16-21 meeting in Anchorage.
The Board of Fisheries passed a similar proposal for the Southeast Region at its 2009 meeting in Sitka. Trout Unlimited supported that proposal, which takes effect in Southeast in January 2011, and would like the felt sole phase out to cover all regions of Alaska.
Aquatic invasive species have devastated fisheries in many parts of the world and enormous amounts of money and time have been spent working to eradicate them from the waterways. However, eradication is not always possible. For instance, Oregon state spends $25 million annually to control Zebra mussels, which have fouled equipment at 13 hydropower sites.
"Fisheries in Alaska are simply too valuable to too many people not to take every reasonable action possible to stop the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species in the future," Mark Kaelke, TU Southeast Alaska project director, said.
Studies conducted in Montana on the sediment transported by anglers wearing felt wading products indicates the average angler transports about 16 grams of sediment in these products.
"We recognize that sediment transferred on felt products is only one of many vectors for the transmission of invasive species, but it is a significant vector, and one that can and should be addressed," Dave Kumlien, executive director of the Montana-based Whirling Disease Foundation, said.
Retail manufacturers have embraced a transition away from the production of felt soled wading products. At present, most major manufacturers offer non-absorbent soled wading boots and several have committed to producing only non-felt products in the future.
TU encouraged the Board to recognize the merits of the felt sole regulation and would like to see it implemented on a statewide basis. TU and its partners have also launched an angler education campaign this year encouraging anglers to use clean angling techniques as another way to combat the spread of invasive species in Alaska's waters.