WASHINGTON (October 31, 2017) – Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Doug Domenech has made available $181,048 to support a request from Governor Ralph Torres and his administration in efforts to contain the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros), which was recently discovered on Rota in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).
“The Governor is grappling with this shocking new discovery of the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB) on Rota, and we are pleased to support his request for assistance,” said Assistant Secretary Domenech. “We’ve seen the damage that the CRB and other invasive species have had on agriculture, flora, and fauna on neighbor islands, such as Guam. Timing and rapid response is critical to protect the natural resources critical to these small island economies.”
On October 4, 2017, the CRB was discovered in Tweeksberry Public Beach Park on Rota. The funds will be provided to the Department of Land and Natural Resources and used in collaborative efforts that include the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the University of Guam’s Biosecurity Extension Program. Efforts for containment and eradication will include surveying, containment, trapping, isolating breeding areas, and conducting sanitation activities to include burning of excess green waste.
Experts in the CNMI believe that the CRB was introduced on Rota in the last 5 months judging from the age of rotted coconut trees discovered and the size of larvae. Origin of the species is unknown but speculation points to the island of Guam, 38 miles south of Rota.
The Secretary of the Interior is responsible for coordinating federal policy with respect to the territories of the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and administering and overseeing U.S. federal assistance provided to the freely associated states of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau under the Compacts of Free Association. On behalf of the Secretary, the Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas executes these responsibilities through the Office of Insular Affairs whose mission is to foster economic opportunities, promote government efficiency, and improve the quality of life for the people of the insular areas.