Tell US Fish and Wildlife Service to Ban Two Asian Carp Species
ISSUE: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposes to ban further imports and interstate shipments of silver carp and largescale silver carp by adding them to the list of "injurious animals" whose movement is restricted by the Lacey Act. It is collecting comments and information now.
ACTION: Submit comments, adding at least a brief section that customizes it to your own expertise and experience.
MAIN MESSAGE: Silver carp and largescale silver carp pose an unacceptable risk to native fish, mussels, and other wildlife; to critical habitat; and to the structure of aquatic communities. The FWS should immediately ban further import and interstate movement of all live forms of these fish.
DEADLINE: Comments must be submitted on or before November 6, 2006. Email, fax, and mail directions are below.
*** THE ISSUE ***
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is proposing to ban the import and interstate transport of all forms of silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) and largescale silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys harmandi), plus each of their various hybrids. By listing these species as "injurious" under the Lacey Act, no live animal, gamete, viable egg, or hybrid could be imported or moved between states, except in limited circumstances and with a permit. (States regulate intra-state movements of fish so silver carp already within state boundaries would not be affected.)
This listing has been considered for several years. In 2002, twenty-five members of Congress' Great Lakes Task Force petitioned the FWS to list three species of Asian carp, including silver carp. A larger group repeated this request in 2004, asking for a decision "soon." The proposed rule is FWS' response.
Silver and largescale silver carp are relatives of several other invasive Asian carp: the grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), which escaped from holding ponds in 1963 and has since become established in 46 US states; bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis), which was first found in the wild in the 1980's, continued to escape from aquaculture facilities in the 1990's, and is now the most common large fish in the lower Missouri River; and black carp, which has been captured in the wild since 2003 and, with its specialized diet of freshwater mussels, is a significant threat to this group, which is among the most imperiled of US species.
Silver carp, native to eastern Asia, were imported into the United States in the early 1970s, probably to control algae in sewage lagoons or commercial aquaculture ponds. Soon thereafter, fish had escaped and also been moved to new locations. Now silver carp have been collected throughout the Mississippi River Basin, in 16 states, and Puerto Rico. They continue to spread. Also, a number of means exist to move these fish to river systems and lakes where they do not now exist, e.g., as baitfish and via live food markets. Biologists are concerned that these carp will compete with native species for food and habitat; carry serious diseases to native species; affect water quality; damage boats and equipment; hurt boaters; and have other negative impacts. Silver carp are large (up to 1.2 m. and 50 kg), long-lived, with high fecundity.
Largescale silver carp are similar, and also native to eastern Asia. This species is not known to be in the United States yet and, because of its narrower biological tolerance, it may not become established except in subtropical and tropical areas of Florida, Hawaii, and Texas. In these places, its impacts could be like those of silver carp. However, largescale silver carp hybridize with silver and bighead carp and hybrids tolerate temperate regions.
FWS' slowness in responding to the 2002 congressional petition prompted a bipartisan group of Great Lakes' lawmakers to introduce legislation in 2005. The Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act (S. 1402 and H.R.3049) would bypass FWS' administrative procedures and add these and other carp species to the Lacey Act immediately. These bills are unlikely to pass in the little time remaining in the current Congress; we do not know if they will be reintroduced in 2007.
Generally, UCS prefers that federal agencies promptly make the scientifically-based regulatory decisions for which they have authority. However, FWS has added only several new groups to the Lacey Act in the past decade. We would like Congress to play its own role: passing broad, comprehensive, and more stringent invasive species law. However, UCS will work with Congress to ban Asian carp if FWS fails to act. Before we do that, though, we want to see whether FWS can be swayed by a strong set of scientists' comments. Failure to act quickly in the face of strong scientist support would provide more evidence that "dirty lists" of banned species are no basis for sound federal invasive species policy.
*** THE ACTION ***
-- With minimal time, you can send the main message and a couple sentences about your interest and expertise.
-- With somewhat more time, you also can describe your experience with invasive species and add the supplemental messages, in your own words.
-- With a larger investment of time, you can address one of more or the questions below, too.
The FWS has asked for answers to the following questions. (For more detail, see Federal Register, below.) The connection between the proposed regulations and these questions is not self-evident and FWS has not responded to UCS' request for clarification. The agency has already received a risk assessment from federal scientists (Kolar, et al. 2005) and completed its own environmental assessments (USFWS 2006a,b). Each documents that these species are "injurious" and high risk. Nevertheless, if you have access to state information, including an answer to one or more questions will ensure that your comments are among those most seriously weighed.
1) What regulations does your state have on these two species? [see Table 10 and pages 117-121 in Kolar, et al., 2005] 2) How many silver carp are present? 3) What would eradication cost? [see pages 14-117 in Kolar, et al., 2005, re lack of options] 4) What are recovery costs for native fish? What state-listed species could by harmed? 5) What is the economic value of commercial fisheries that could be harmed? 6) How many fishermen sell live silver carp? 7) What are annuals sales and landings of silver carp? 8) What is the consumer surplus or revenue from native or higher-value fish? [See US Census Bureau, 2002, for your state.] 9) What is the value of the baitfish industry?
-- MAIN MESSAGE: Silver carp and largescale silver carp pose an unacceptable risk to native fish, mussels, and other wildlife; to critical habitat; and to the structure of aquatic communities. The FWS should immediately ban further imports and interstate movement of all live forms of these fish.
-- TIMING: Comments must be submitted on or before November 6, 2006
How to submit comments:
E-mail: email@example.com Include "RIN number 1018-AT29" in the subject line of the message.
Web: Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://ucsaction.org/ct/2pSSrOY1emUZ/.
Fax: (703) 358-1800.
Mail: Chief, Branch of Invasive Species U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 322 Arlington, VA 22203
-- LET US KNOW: Please send us an email message that tells us what action you took. Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org
*** SUPPORTING MESSAGES ***
-- The detailed information solicited in this FWS proposal is important and useful. However, the materials already available to FWS have found that these species are "injurious." Lacey Act listing should not be delayed to collect additional information.
-- According to the FWS' Draft Environmental Assessment, as many as 65 of the 184 fishes and mussels on the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife "would likely be impacted by the introduction and establishment of silver carp." The FWS is responsible for protecting these species, especially ones that inhabit waters where silver carp are not yet present. This responsibility makes Lacey Act listings essential.
-- Generally, FWS should act more quickly and more often in adding species to the list of injurious fish and wildlife. The Lacey Act is not an effective tool for preventing new invasions when FWS requires more than four years to act. If FWS' listing process cannot be streamlined, the agency should lay out a plan to overhaul its regulations completely, with stronger prevention in mind.
*** SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION ***
-- Federal Register, Vol. 71, No. 171, Sept. 6, 2006.. Online at: http://ucsaction.org/ct/s1SSrOY1emya/ (pdf) USFWS Proposed Rule.
-- Kolar, C.S., D.C. Chapman, W.R. Courtenay, Jr., C.M. Housel, J.D. Williams, D.P. Jennings. 2005. "Asian Carps of the Genus Hypophthalmichthys (Pisces, Cyprinidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Environmental Risk Assessment," Interagency report to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. 175 pages. Online at: http://ucsaction.org/ct/NpSSrOY1emU-/ (pdf) A detailed survey, based on peer-reviewed literature.
-- Nico, L. 2006. "USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL." Online at: http://ucsaction.org/ct/NdSSrOY1emUG/ A factsheet on silver carp.
-- US Census Bureau. 2002. 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. Online at: http://ucsaction.org/ct/N7SSrOY1emUF/ National summary and 50 state reports.
-- US Fish and Wildlife Service. 2006a. "Draft Environmental Assessment for Listing Silver Carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) as Injurious Wildlife under the Lacey Act." USFWS/DEQ/BIS. Arlington, VA. USFWS/DEQ/BIS. Arlington, VA. Online at: http://ucsaction.org/ct/wpSSrOY1emyq/ (pdf)
-- US Fish and Wildlife Service. 2006b. "Draft Environmental Assessment for Listing Largescale Silver Carp (Hypophthalmichthys harmandi) as Injurious Wildlife under the Lacey Act." USFWS/DEQ/BIS. Arlington, VA. Online at: http://ucsaction.org/ct/w7SSrOY1emy1/ (pdf)