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Saturday, May 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Agency Lists 11 Alien Species as ‘Injurious’

WASHINGTON (CN) - Eleven non-native freshwater aquatic species are proposed for federal listing as "injurious wildlife" to protect native species and environments, and to prevent staggering economic losses.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published the proposed injurious listing for the common yabby crayfish and ten fish species on Friday. The fish are the crucian carp, Prussian carp, Eurasian minnow, roach, stone moroko, Nile perch, Amur sleeper, European perch, and zander.

If finalized, the rule would prohibit importing and interstate transporting of "any live animal, gamete, viable egg or hybrid of each species listed, except by permit for zoological, educational, medical or scientific purposes," the agency said.

An invasive species is defined as a species that is "non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health," according to Executive Order 13112, which established the National Invasive Species Council in 1999.

The proposed listing action is taken under authority of the Lacey Act, first signed into law by President William McKinley in 1900. The act was prompted by large-scale interstate trafficking in illegal wildlife, such as the now-extinct passenger pigeon, but it also banned imports of non-native wildlife that threatened crops in this country.

The act has been amended many times, most recently in 1998.

"Proactive measures authorized under the Lacey Act are imperative for preventing invasive species from entering U.S. ecosystems," Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe said.

"This rule, if finalized, will help our nation avoid the ecological damages and economic losses associated with these 11 species while protecting our nation's diverse natural resources for generations to come," he said.

The agency cites a study published in 2005 by David Pimental and others at Cornell University, which determined that the 50,000 foreign species identified in this country at that time caused $120 billion per year in environmental and economic damages, and threatened 42 percent of the species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Just the Department of the Interior alone spent $100 million on invasive species prevention in 2011, according to the Service's fact sheet.

Nine federal departments, including Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Interior, State, Transportation, and Treasury, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, several independent federal agencies, state agencies and numerous private sector organizations actively contribute to the control of invasive species in our country. Invasive species are not just a problem in the U.S. however. "The estimated damage from invasive species worldwide totals more than $1.4 trillion, five percent of the global economy," according to the Nature Conservancy.

"In 2010 alone, the federal government committed $78.5 million in investments to prevent the introduction of Asian carp to the Great Lakes, where they would threaten Great Lakes fisheries and could negatively impact remaining populations of endangered or threatened aquatic species," the Service said. That effort failed.

Asian carp are such a big problem that the Canadian Invasive Species Centre has sponsored a competition for university and college students for the development of innovative solutions to prevent the fish from entering the Great Lakes basin through U.S. waterways, or to control or eliminate the populations and spread if they do.

Two of the currently proposed species are carp, which are fast growing and prodigious reproducers that can quickly crowd out other fish, according to the National Park Service.

None of the 11 proposed species are currently present in U.S. waters except for the zander, which is in one lake in North Dakota. The species are natives of Europe, Asia, Africa or Australia. They may be imported for the pet trade, aquaculture or as live bait for the recreational fishing industry. The zander was actually imported and introduced as a sport fish, the NPS noted.

The Fish and Wildlife Service's proposed rule opens a 60-day public comment period on the rule, the draft economic analysis, and the draft environmental assessment. Comments are due Dec. 29.

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