Hawaii is still moving toward setting rejection policies for snake-infested cargo from Guam.

Mindy M. Wilkinson invasive species coordinator for the Hawaii Department of Land and Resources told the Journal legislation was introduced in 2004 in the Hawaii State Legislature but was killed in the middle of the legislative season. “Matson the biggest shipper had some concerns regarding the ability of USDA to properly conduct inspections for their customers ” she said.

A bill is not yet before the Hawaii State Legislature but Wilkinson said she anticipates a similar bill will be introduced. “It gives the (Hawaii) Department of Agriculture the authority” the actions are then to inspect reject treat send out of state or destroy any article imported to the state — and the qualifier is — originating from Guam that has not been certified.”

She said Hawaii’s government would expend about $100 000 by the end of fiscal 2005 for a U.S. Department of Agriculture study or trial inspection process and cargo certification process. “There are four shippers that are cooperating with wildlife services to allow their outgoing cargo to be fully inspected ” she said.

Wilkinson said the study might be incorporated into the new legislation. “The idea of the study is to show what it would actually entail. Some of the data that wildlife services is collecting includes the amount of time that it takes to do the inspection how long it takes to watch the inspected cargo and then load it into the container and seal it ” she said. Wilkinson said when the study is completed a report will be available for review.

“The mechanism that we are proposing is different only in that there would be some kind of certification mark or seal and that the cargo would be inspected immediately prior to being placed in a sealed container to ensure that there would be no ingress of snakes after an inspection has occurred ” she said.

The Guam office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture continues to call on local shippers and freight forwarders to cooperate with inspections and searches of cargo leaving Guam.

Daniel S. Vice assistant state director of the USDA said there was still no cost to shippers to have their outgoing cargo inspected. Before attending a meeting with Hawaii agency officials Vice told the Journal “I’m still of the opinion that all we need is cooperation and not policy to mandate inspections.”

On April 6 members of the Brown Tree Snake Technical Committee met in Hawaii to discuss several issues to include funding education and awareness legislation or policy and research. The Department of Defense U.S. Geological Survey USDA U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife Guam Department of Aquatics and Wildlife Resources the Federal Aviation Administration and Hawaii’s departments of Fish and Wildlife Agriculture and Quarantine all attended the conference.

Nate B. Hawley herpetologist and supervisor for the Northern Mariana Islands Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Brown Tree Snake Interdiction Program in the Northern Mariana Islands attended the recent Hawaii meeting. He said it was important that all the respective CNMI agencies support the Guam operation. “If we’re receiving cargo that hasn’t even been searched it’s going to be a lot harder for us to search it when it gets to our location.”

Hawley said he would like to see legislation that supports thorough investigative searches of cargo from Guam headed to the CNMI.

“Sometimes shippers may be unintentionally or intentionally avoiding Dan’s process of inspection because it may take time or it may not be convenient for them. But they have to know that on the receiving end if Dan [Vice] finds out about a container that hasn’t been searched — he calls me ” he said. Hawley said “When I get the call I am waiting for that container and when it comes in it’s going to be put under quarantine.”

Vice said the CNMI had strict protocol for Guam non-inspected cargo.
Hawley said he supported more funding for brown tree snake eradication research on Guam.

During the conference he spoke about the brown tree snake awareness campaign on Saipan and that creating a similar program in other islands was important. “I think this needs to be of regional importance because this is a regional issue that deals with region-based companies shippers and military. It’s a Pacificwide problem ” he said.

Hawley said the conference helped to formulate a report from all the agencies involved. A blue ribbon panel report on the USDA brown tree snake program was also presented during the meeting. One section called for increased measures by the military on Guam to prevent brown tree snakes from reaching Hawaii’s shores in its cargoes.

Vice said the same blue ribbon panel report indicated a payment structure would have to be established for future USDA cargo certification.

He said shipping companies and freight consolidators and the USDA would have to set the fees. “If the USDA receives an appropriation from the U.S. Congress we may not need to set the fee schedule but given the current economic climate that might not happen ” he said. Vice said he continued to ask shippers freight forwarders and transportation companies to work with his agency. “Cooperation is necessary. There’s no guarantees that that’s going to circumvent the legislation certification requirements but a good-faith-effort now may make the requirements less rigorous.” MBJ