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Invasive Species Council holds first meeting

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - Invasive species are one type of visitors not welcome here on Guam, and a group of government agencies is banding together to keep them from entering the island. Keeping invasive species off Guam is the purpose of a council that met for the first time today at Adelup.

The Department of Agriculture is taking the lead, says director Mariquita Taitague. "It's exciting because we are developing this program, which will really help Guam fight invasive species coming as it arrives on Guam," she explained.

Other agencies taking part in the Council are Customs, the Port Authority, Parks and Recreation, the Guam International Airport Authority, and Homeland Security. The council was created by Public Law 31-43, signed by Governor Eddie Calvo this past May.

Territorial entomologist for the Guam Department of agriculture Russel Campbell says he is providing information to the different departments on the legal mandates of the Council, noting, "On Guam we know there are at least 300 to 400 different species that can cause many different kinds of damage from human health problems to environmental problems to being very destructive to our farmers when they are trying to produce crops."

Campbell says the U.S. economy suffers $240 billion in losses a year due to invasive species, adding, "And in Guam certainly every citizen knows that we suffer losses due to many of these species whether it be just a nuisance pest such as the barking frog or the more serious things like the coconut rhinoceros that is destroying many of our coconut trees."

But the real potentially devastating consequence could be to the tourism industry, as Campbell stated, "Of course, you know if you lose a major number one industry like tourism it could be devastating to the economy." The pests he says make there way to Guam from predominately the mainland, Hawaii, Palau and the Philippines. He says mosquitoes, frogs and of course brown trees snakes are examples of species that can cause major damage here.

To prevent that from happening, the Council will explore methods such as pre inspections, extensive inspections, certain treatments, as well as providing education on the topic. Taitague adds another way they will be combating these invasive species is by creating a special division at the Department of Agriculture. "With a new coordinator and lots of new people that will be involved in really going out there and making sure that we are catching the invasive species that are coming to our island so that we will not destroy our natural resources," she said.

The council is scheduled to next meet on July 7 from 10am to noon at the Department of Homeland Security. Under Guam law, the Council is required to meet no less than once a quarter, but Taitague says they have such a large task to tackle they are planning to meet once a month.

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