Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Guam Turns Back Spider Infested Vessel

Guam officials are concerned about damage to the island's environment after thousands of non-native spiders poured out of a cargo ship being unloaded at the island's commercial port last week.

The Guam Department of Agriculture turned away the vessel M/V Altavia after thousands of spiders were spotted by longshore workers who were unloading housing components.

Upon the discovery, dockers notified the port police, who in turn notified the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency. Officials at the GCQA ordered the cargo returned to the vessel and the vessel sent to a quarantine anchorage in the port's outer harbor. GDA officials later decided to not let the vessel, which most recently called in South Korea, return to dock.

Customs officials who boarded the vessel prior to docking cleared the ship to dock.
Guam government officials are now trying to determine how many of the unidentified but non-native spiders made it ashore. GDA Director Joseph Torres described the condition aboard the vessel as an infestation and raised concerns that if the non-native spiders proved to be invasive they could cause damage to the island's environment.

GDA and GCQA officials have been working with the University of Guam to try to identify the spiders, but said experts may have to be flown in or specimens flown out to complete the identification. Officials did confirm that the spiders are not native to Guam.