Congress pushing legislation to check exotic introductions
By Robert Montgomery
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Resource professionals are seeking
Congressional support for legislation that would require
thorough screening of exotic species before they could
be imported into the United States. Under such guidance,
importers would have to provide evidence that the exotics
would not harm native species and ecosystems.
Possession of any species not listed on a "clean
species" list would be prohibited.
"This is not unlike the testing of new drugs,"
explained the Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource
Association (MICRA). "And like drugs, invasive species
can have unanticipated impacts that could be prevented
with the collection and evaluation of adequate background
Species screening requirements are included in the National
Aquatic Invasive Species Act now before Congress. But
the legislation contains many other provisions as well,
and, because of its size, complexity and cost, it has
become bogged down in the legislative process.
That's why MICRA formulated separate legislation for
screening and presented it to the Midwest Association
of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the International Association
of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Both have endorsed the
"Species screening and development of clean species
lists are relatively inexpensive measures that the government
can take to protect the public and the environment,"
"The costs of data collection and research necessary
to prove the safety of a new species would fall on the
importer as a cost of doing business. If the benefit of
introducing a new species is great enough, then the cost
of developing the necessary background information should
not be prohibitive in obtaining a positive benefit/cost
Had such legislation been in place a few decades ago,
the spread of large, exotic carp throughout the Mississippi
River watershed might have been prevented. And the multimillion-dollar
electronic barrier now being constructed to keep them
out of the Great Lakes would not have been necessary.