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North America works to halt invasive species

Economic losses and the environmental impact caused by invasive species exceed $100 billion dollars annually in the United States alone. An example of this is the zebra mussel, which has caused nearly $1 billion in damages, according to a New York Sea Grant report.

In southwest Mexico, the unintentional introduction of a nonnative fish species, the armored catfish, or plecostomus, in the Infiernillo reservoir has had a severe impact on local fisheries in Guerrero and Michoacn, affecting the quality of life of thousands of persons at a cost to the region's economy estimated at more than $16 million per year.

Evidence shows that the most effective way to address the potentially devastating damage to the environment and the economy is to use preventive measures.

To this end, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) today released the Trinational Risk Assessment Guidelines for Aquatic Alien Invasive Species developed in cooperation with experts from Canada, Mexico and the United States.

These Guidelines were announced during the 16th International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species, held in Montreal, Quebec. To test the applicability of the guidelines, the report uses two fishes as case studies: the snakehead (fam. Channidae) and the plecostomus (fam. Loricariidae). Both were selected as their introduction pathways are related to trade, they are found in at least two North American countries, and there is evidence that they harm the environment and ecosystems.

"A truly comprehensive approach to alien invasive species will only come if all three countries work together to exchange scientific information and unite to provide harmonized invasive species actions to protect and control our continental biological resources," said Richard Orr, the project's US lead coordinator and former Deputy Director of the National Invasive Species Council. He added, "I truly believe that, if given a chance, regional international organizations such as the CEC can provide a positive example of what can be done not only for the three countries in North America but for the global community as a whole."

The guidelines will be used as a tool for North American resource managers to assess the risk of introducing nonnative species into a natural ecosystem. While not all invasive species cause damage and some are even beneficial, the risk analysis must be meticulous to assess the mechanisms of species establishment and dispersal, as well as the potential impacts they may have once they are released into natural ecosystems.

The control and eventual eradication of invasive fish populations, once established, is practically impossible. The governments of the region's three countries are likewise committed to building cross-border capacities to create prevention and awareness programs throughout North America.


Contact: Jeff Stoub
Commission for Environmental Cooperation

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