ANCHORAGE, Alaska– Trout Unlimited (TU) today applauded the Alaska Board of Fisheries for adopting a statewide phase-out of felt sole wading products, effective Jan. 1, 2012. The move is aimed at guarding against the spread of aquatic invasive species.
The board on Friday passed the proposal unanimously after hearing testimony earlier in the week from anglers, lodge owners and others who warned that unless Alaska takes action to protect its freshwater rivers, lakes and streams, they risk becoming infected as in other parts of the world.
“The board should be commended for taking this proactive step to end the use of felt sole boots and waders in Alaska which are a significant source of transmission of invasive species. Usually it takes a crisis for people to wake up and act. In this case, the board followed the lead of science, vetted the issue thoroughly, and made the right decision for the future health of Alaska fisheries,” said Mark Kaelke, TU Southeast Alaska Project Director.
Aquatic invasive species have devastated fisheries and municipal water systems in many countries and in other parts of the United States. Enormous amounts of money and time have been spent working to eradicate them from the infected waterways. The yearly economic impact of invasive species in the United States is estimated at $133.6 billion.
Although Alaska’s waterways are relatively free of invasive species, TU expects that without proactive measures and increased awareness of potential problems, it is simply a matter of time before invasion occurs.
“The Board of Fisheries’ action will command attention far beyond Alaska. By taking this important step, Alaska becomes the first state in the nation to ban the use of felt sole wading products. That sends an important signal,” said Dave Kumlien, executive director of the Montana-based Whirling Disease Foundation.
Friday’s action is the second time the Board of Fisheries has passed a ban on felt sole wading products. In response to a proposal by Juneau Trout Unlimited Chapter Member, Mark Vinsel, the board in 2009 agreed to ban the use of felt sole waders and boots in Southeast Alaska’s fresh waterways as of January 1, 2011.
The start date for the Southeast ban has now been extended until January 1, 2012, when the measure takes effect statewide.
Many retail manufacturers have supported 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. Between now and when the statewide prohibition on felt sole takes effect, TU urges anglers to always inspect, clean and dry their all fishing gear as a way to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.