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Great Lakes Article:

Pollution News
Congress pushing legislation to check exotic introductions
By Robert Montgomery
BASS Times
January 2005

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 information."

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 proposal.

"Species screening and development of clean species lists are relatively inexpensive measures that the government can take to protect the public and the environment," MICRA continued.

"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 analysis."

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.

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