Cargo ships stay free of Asian gypsy moths
Collaboration with the maritime industry and overseas agriculture services has led to a significant reduction in Asian gypsy moth finds on cargo vessels in recent months, Kevin Harriger, executive director for agriculture programs at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said Thursday.
Last February, CBP urgently warned vessel operators to mitigate the risk of having cargo operations shut down or vessels ordered out of port after U.S. and Canadian authorities in 2008 discovered an unprecedented number of egg masses on commercial vessels calling on U.S. West Coast ports. In 10 cases, the infestation was severe enough that the vessels were ordered into international waters. CBP said at the time it had reports of moth swarms at ports in Japan, China and Korea. The bright lights of nighttime cargo loading operations tend to attract the moths.
The Asian gypsy moth poses a threat to more than 500 different host plants.
Harriger said the decline in Asian gypsy moth interceptions can be attributed to steps by international agriculture departments to prevent the chances of the bug being exported, such as tighter certification requirements for vessels, and extensive outreach to the maritime sector last summer. The educational effort included a video distributed to ship crews to help them identify the moth during intensive vessel inspections and scrape off and destroy the egg masses prior to arrival.
The drop-off also could be related to the fact that most gypsy moth flight and infestation occurs from June to October.
Two Asian gypsy moths have been found in containers, but none on any vessels since last fall, Harriger said at the quarterly meeting of the agency's Commercial Operations Advisory Committee in Miami.
State agriculture departments are also helping contain the spread of the moth by setting up traps in and around ports, and other areas.
CBP headquarters plans to send a message and information packet to local ports of entry within the next couple weeks so that officials can remind shipping lines, agents and other transportation intermediaries to remain vigilant for the pest, he said after the meeting. ' Eric Kulisch