American Shipper

Progress made on Asian gypsy moth

Progress made on Asian gypsy moth

   Proactive work by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and ocean carriers led to a significant reduction in Asian gypsy moth discoveries on cargo vessels in 2010, Mike Simon, director of quarantine policy analysis and support staff for the Department of Agriculture, said last week.

   Inspectors only found live egg masses on two vessels this fiscal year compared to six in 2009 and 18 in 2008, he reported during the quarterly meeting of the Commercial Operations Advisory Committee in Washington.

   U.S. and Canadian authorities scrambled two years ago to stop the pest's entry when an unprecedented number of egg masses were discovered on commercial vessels calling at West Coast ports. In 10 cases the infestations were severe enough that the vessels were ordered into international waters. Scientists believe the bright lights in several Asian ports attract the moths.

   The timber industry and agricultural experts worry that the voracious pest could defoliate large chunks of forest if it gains a foothold in North America.

   CBP said in an Oct. 29 news release that officers at the Port of New Orleans found an Asian gypsy moth egg mass in a shipment that arrived from Russia.

   Analysts reviewing shipping data selected several containers containing ceramic sand used in the oil drilling industry for an agricultural inspection. The infested wood pallet where the mass was found was treated with golden pest spray oil and 39 containers were designated for re-export, CBP said.

   Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has helped contain the spread of the moth by getting authorities in Japan, South Korea and Russia to set up pre-departure ship inspections and certifications.

   Simon said China, which initially didn't agree to conduct ship checks, will begin a program in 2011 to certify that ships are free of moths.

   APHIS has also arranged for foreign counterparts in at-risk ports to set up a traps to determine moth levels and what shipments to target.

   'We don't want CBP to inspect every ship, only those where there could be a high risk,' he said.

   Officials have also shortened the moth egg-laying season to about 10 weeks, he added. The risk period has now passed. ' Eric Kulisch