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Source: WIVB Buffalo

Bill aims to prevent spread of more invasive species in NY waterways

BY KATIE ALEXANDER
NEWS 4 REPORTER

Posted: July 26, 2016
Originally Published: July 18, 2016

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – New invasive species are being discovered in New York’s waterways, threatening the sport fishing industry, our food, and the health of our ecosystems, but a new bill being introduced in the U.S. Senate aims to prevent more problems in the future.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand joined Rep. Brian Higgins, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, as well as leaders from Citizens Campaign for the Environment and Buffalo Niagara River Keeper, to announce her plans to introduce the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act, which would give the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service greater authority to fight back.

“Right now, invasive species are regulated by an outdated, 116 year old law that gives the US Fish and Wildlife Service very limited power to regulate non-native species of animals. It’s very difficult under this law to actually ban them from being imported or to block interstate sales of species that can cause harm,” Sen. Gillibrand explained.

Currently, more than 200 species are listed as “injurious” to natural resources in the United States. Once a species is listed as injurious, it cannot be imported into the United States or its territories, or through interstate commerce, without a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit. Under the current system, injurious designations happen after a species has already been introduced to the United States and established an ecosystem, and the process to get the injurious designation can take years.

Senator Gillibrand’s legislation gives the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service greater authority to regulate nonnative species and prohibit them from being imported or sold in the United States. It would also establish an injurious species listing process based on risk to natural resources, and would provide the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with temporary authority to make emergency designations for wildlife that pose an imminent threat.

This week, for example, you’ll see Biological Science Technicians at different sites along the Cattaraugus Creek electrofishing for sea lamprey larvae, to get a better idea of the population size that’s here. This work follows efforts earlier this summer to treat our local waterways with chemicals to kill the larvae, to prevent them from maturing and making their way into the Great Lakes, where they can decimate native fish populations.

The Fish and Wildlife crews will be electrofishing in Western New York through Wednesday.