Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia’aina yesterday met with Governors’ representatives from the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands for the first meeting of the U.S. Territories Invasive Species Coordinating Committee (USTISCC).
The meeting follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on December 6, 2016, by the island Governors and the Assistant Secretary, committing to help prevent, eradicate, and control invasive species as well as to protect and restore natural and cultural resources from the effects of invasive species in the U.S. territories..
Assistant Secretary Kiaaina said, “Invasive species pose one of the greatest threats in the U.S. territories to natural and cultural resources, as they are a significant driver of environmental degradation and species extinction.
“We can’t afford to let invasive species go unchecked in the territories. They could threaten water and food availability, impair human health, damage already fragile economies, and undermine the security of our Pacific and Caribbean regions.”
Governor Lolo Moliga said, “The American Samoa Government commends the DOI-Insular Affairs Office for taking this initiative in helping the US Pacific Territories deal with the problem of invasive species.
“American Samoa, like all island nations, is particularly vulnerable to invasive species because it is small, isolated, and has native species that are naive and vulnerable to invasive species. Invasive species are a threat to our ecosystem, economy, food security, and the people of American Samoa.
“Therefore this initiative by DOI-Insular Affairs is welcome because it will support the Territory in developing a legal framework to deal with invasive species, and identify priority actions to prevent future introductions and manage current invasive species through the American Samoa Invasive Species Action Plan.”
DOI says in a press release that invasive species that have already been intentionally and unintentionally introduced in the U.S. territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean are causing species extinction and irreparable damage to natural and cultural resources.
If unchecked, invasive species can cost billions of dollars in damage, including the indirect cost of lost revenue to the tourism industry in the territories. Proactive measures to prevent, eradicate, and control invasive species are critically needed in these jurisdictions.
Efforts of the USTISCC will include helping to identify or establish programs to institutionalize the initiative; improve biosecurity capacities, including pathway management; develop early detection and rapid response systems as well as joint programs for the eradication and control of species of priority concern; and share best practices, scientific and technical information, personnel, and other resources necessary to facilitate prevention, eradication, and control of invasive species, as well as species recovery and habitat restoration in the U.S. territories.