“Oyster drill” sounds like a new invention that allows gourmets to slurp their oysters on the half-shell out through a hole via a straw, but it’s actually one of the latest fronts in the global struggle against invasive species.

    An oyster drill is a kind of saltwater snail that preys on oysters, barnacles and other shellfish. Effective control methods are elusive. Spraying is always controversial and, in this case, not particularly feasible. Other methods that work in the laboratory — such as baited traps — don’t work within the huge water volumes of a natural bay. There is a natural predator that loves oyster drills, but unfortunately these invasive green crabs are viewed as an even worse threat to ecosystems than the oyster drills themselves.

    Scientists are working on the problem and probably will eventually develop a workable control strategy. But any victory over an invasive species is short-term at best — there are always other invaders waiting in the wings. A reminder of this arrived this month after inspectors with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife found highly destructive invasive mussels on two recreational boats during the first week of a vessel-inspection program.

    It is good news that these boaters stopped at checkpoints. Quagga and zebra mussels would wreak havoc in multiple ways in the Columbia-Snake watershed, fouling fish ladders, clogging navigation locks and a host of other destructive impacts.

    The “good news,” if there is any, is that there are hardly any native mollusks in the Columbia estuary for exotic invaders to displace.  

    It is one of the strange ironies of the extreme politics of today that some conspiracy-minded groups regard the phrase “invasive species” as code for heavy-handed government intervention. In the actual world, real working people who depend on the environment to make their livings have good cause to be worried about these invaders.

    More government interest in confronting this issue will be welcome here on the coast of Washington.

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