Scientists lobby for legislation to
halt exotics threat
By Robert Montgomery
BASS Times Senior Writer
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a letter presented by the Union
of Concerned Scientists, more than 700 scientists are
urging Congress and the Bush administration to strengthen
efforts to halt the spread of invasive species, which
they say present serious threats to the environment, economy
and human health.
Specifically, the letter signers want Congress to pass
the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2003 (H.R.
1080 and S. 525), as well as allocate funds for a program
that would detect and respond to new non-native species
while their populations are small and the costs of eradication
Failure to stop and/or control exotic invaders, such
as the zebra mussel, round goby and several species of
Asian carp, is already costing the nation about $137 billion
annually. Additionally, an estimated 46 percent of plants
and animals listed under the Endangered Species Act have
been harmed by invasive species.
In amending earlier legislation, this new act would require
the U.S. Coast Guard to promulgate regulations for ballast
water management, as well as prohibit the importation
of live aquatic organisms without specified screening
Although invaders arrive in packaging, nursery shipments
and dozens of other ways, ballast water has been the primary
conduit for some of the most harmful exotics. Instead
of flushing ballast water at sea, ships from foreign countries
wait until they enter the Great Lakes or the harbors of
coastal cities. Then, when the water is discharged, exotic
hitchhikers, such as the zebra mussel, are released.
The proposed legislation also calls for the construction
of a national dispersal barrier program to prevent the
spread of invasive species once they have arrived. Strategies
in such a program might include electrical barriers and
Implementation of the new act would cost $164 million
annually for the first two years, and $171 million annually
for the next three to five years.