Letter: Time to tame

Michael J. Matta, Naples and Port Orion, OH

Adviser to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Time to tame

As a leading import market, the United States receives hundreds of millions of live non-native animals each year.

Under the current 112-year-old law that regulates these imports (The Lacy Act), it takes an average of four years for the federal government to stop the import of those that are harmful and invasive. During this time, some of these animals can escape or be released, causing widespread damage, and hitting taxpayers in the pocketbook.

Recent invasions by imported animal species such as the Burmese Python, Asian carp, northern snakeheads and red lionfish cost millions of dollars annually in efforts to control them. To stop the spread of just one of these invasive species — Asian carp — into the Great Lakes, federal, state and local governments have spent approximately $204 million from 1998-2011, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A recently proposed separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi watersheads has a minimum price tag of $4.4 billion. These costs could have been avoided if authorities had considered their risks beforehand and restricted their importation.

To address this problem, U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York and a bipartisan group of co-sponsors have introduced The Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act of 2012 (HR 5864) to stop the influx of damaging invasive species, while still allowing trade in the vast majority of non-native animals that pose no risk of invasiveness or threat to the health of humans or wildlife.

This modernization of animal import legislation was needed years ago to stop non-native invaders. Thanks to Rep. Slaughter and her colleagues, Congress is finally acting to right this wrong and stop the next damaging animal invader.

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