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New report calls on Congress to make laws and increase funding to combat aquatic invasive species

by American Sportfishing Association 6 Apr 2023 18:27 UTC
New report calls on Congress to update laws and increase funding to combat aquatic invasive species © American Sportfishing Association

A new report was released from the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Commission calls on Congress to modernize laws, increase federal funding, and improve coordination at federal, state, local, and tribal levels to combat harmful aquatic invasive species.

The report, which was informed by consultations with leading voices in natural resources policy, scientists, federal, state, tribal representatives, and recreational stakeholders, urges Congress to direct agencies to identify regulatory gaps and enhance public engagement.

The report calls for information sharing and the development of data-driven solutions to enable the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force (ANSTF) to better coordinate AIS prevention, early detection and eradication. The report highlights emerging risks of AIS introduction, calling for the modernization of existing laws addressing AIS, such as the Lacey Act and Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act.

"From invasive carp to green crab to didymo, AIS are one of the leading threats to fisheries conservation and the nation's $148 billion recreational fishing industry," said ASA Inland Fisheries Policy Manager Connor Bevan. "Informed by leading biologists, fisheries managers and policy experts, the AIS Commission's landmark report presents comprehensive recommendations to better control the spread of AIS across the country and prevent future introductions."

"Aquatic invasive species are a tremendous threat to our nation's waters, causing billions of dollars in economic harm and unquantifiable, often irreversible damage to ecosystems. I commend the outdoor industry for taking the threat of AIS seriously and for presenting a roadmap for effective policy," said Dr. Marc Gaden, member of the AIS commission, Communications Director at the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and associate professor at Michigan State University. "I am particularly pleased to see that many of the recommendations focus on the importance of leveraging science to affect policy. I urge Congress to act on these recommendations so that our nation can take immediate action on invasive species prevention and control."

The report says that laws should maintain access for boaters and anglers, balancing safe usage with the long-term health of natural resources. Mark Menendez, a pro angler and member of the AIS commission, applauded the Commission's report, touting the importance of the findings and addressing the threat of AIS.

"Access to healthy waters, safe usage, and the long-term health of our natural resources is always on the minds of anglers and boaters while on the water," said Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mark Menendez. "Ensuring the long-term health of our waterways is crucial in lessening the economic burden that aquatic invasive species unfortunately present to communities impacted by these harmful species. Control, eradication, and beneficial burgeoning industries will play a key part in collaborating to reduce many harmful AIS from our aquatic systems."

The American public has a role to play in this fight, too. The report calls on natural resource managers to maintain and strengthen public engagement over AIS issues. Coordinated, science-based education on AIS prevention is key to effectively stopping the spread of AIS in our waters.

Additionally, the report recommends that Congress should:

  • Authorize the ANSTF as an independent federal entity that can receive and grant federal appropriated funds OR ensure all federal agencies have sufficient funding to administer and operate an AIS Program with dedicated staff.

  • Appropriate funds for proven technologies like invasive fish barriers and deterrents, employing such techniques as bioacoustic fish fences, gas bubble screens and electric fences, or other appropriate technologies along with traditional physical structures on interjurisdictional waterways and waters of regional and national importance based on ANSTF priority sites.

  • Provide additional funding for the appropriate agencies to expand signage and visual-textual cues, and work to address language barriers at boat launches and fishing access points to induce AIS prevention activities, including "Clean, Drain, Dry" decontamination actions and "Don't Let it Loose" messaging.

An Executive Summary of the report may be viewed here, and the report may be read in its entirety here.

Founded by scientists, conservationists, anglers, boaters, business leaders, and policy experts, the AIS Commission has convened leading experts to identify federal policy solutions to prevent the introduction and control the spread for invasive species in our nation's waters, culminating in a detailed report.

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