Interior Provides $409,885 to Guam to Mitigate Infestations of the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle and Little Fire Ant; Protect Natural Resources

Last edited 06/17/2020
Contact Information

Tanya Harris Joshua 202-208-6008,

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 21, 2017) – Interior Acting Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Nikolao Pula made available $409,885 to preserve natural and cultural resources and protect against invasive species on Guam. 

“We are especially pleased that Congress was able to provide some extra funding in FY 2017 to mitigate and control the coconut rhinoceros beetle and little fire ant on Guam,” said Pula. “All funding supports Governor Eddie Calvo’s efforts in protecting Guam’s natural resources now and for the future.”

Guam’s Department of Agriculture will receive $74,516 to start up a training and outreach program for the prevention, control and management of the little fire ant (LFA), Wasmannia auropunctata, infestation on Guam.  Funds will provide for equipment and supplies, personnel training, a new website dedicated to LFA control, and workshops to encourage and engage the public in the control and management of this pest.  An LFA infestation was first found at a green-waste site on the northern tip of Guam in 2011, and there are now over 20 widely dispersed infestation sites on the island.  Other infestations of the LFA have been found in Hawaii and other islands of Polynesia further south, including Australia.  The LFA has caused ecological disruption in Guam’s forests and other areas on Guam.  It is feared that if unchecked, the LFA will cause further disruptions to Guam’s ecosystem and spread to other islands in the Micronesia region.

The University of Guam (UOG) College of Natural and Applied Sciences will receive $63,816 to purchase supplies and equipment necessary to eradicate the little fire ant (LFA), Wasmannia auropunctata, from selected forest sites on Guam using techniques adapted from successful LFA mitigation projects in Hawaii.  In cooperation with the UOG Cooperative Extension Services, entemologists will also train technical workers to recognize and control LFA infestations.

The University of Guam will also receive $176,553 to fund a post-doctoral entomologist for two years and supplement existing work to administer Oryctes nudivirus, the biological control agent of choice against the Coconut Rhinocerous Beetle (CRB), Oryctes rhinoceros.  This has typically reduced damage by up to 90% with population suppression lasting indefinitely.  The CRB has been rapidly killing coconut trees in Guam and Palau.  Ideal CRB breeding sites are in decaying vegetation, often left in the wake of tropical storms and typhoons.  Without significant suppression, it is believed both Guam and Palau will lose most of their coconut trees and that it will only be a matter of time before other islands in Micronesia are invaded by the CRB. 

These three aforementioned initiatives support efforts to control the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle and the Little Fire Ant and align with the 2015 Biosecurity Plan for Hawaii and Micronesia.  These two invasive species pose significant challenges to regional ecosystems and present both health and economic risks to communities in the Pacific.  These specific initiatives were able to be funded because a one-time appropriation add-on of $250,000 made available by the U.S. Congress in the FY 2017 budget towards these eradication efforts and to augment capacity building within the insular areas in the management of natural and cultural resources.  At the 22nd Micronesian Islands Forum in May 2017, island leaders, including Guam Governor Eddie Calvo, identified invasive species and specifically the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle, as one of the most important threats to island communities, economics, environments and human health.

Guam’s Bureau of Statistics and Plans will receive $95,000 for a variety of projects including

  1. Providing coral reef management support through participation in local and regional meetings to address and promote sound management of coral reef conservation efforts on Guam.  These efforts promote sustainability of Guam’s tourism industry and responsible development along Guam’s shorelines.
  2. Support the Guam Nature Alliance, the University of Guam’s Island Sustainability Conference and other efforts to engage communities in the management of Guam’s land, water and ocean resources.
  3. Tasi Watch Beach Guides will be hired and trained to monitor trends in recreational use and conduct educational outreach at Piti’s Tepungan Bay, one of five marine preserves on Guam and also one of the most heavily used for introductory dives.  The Guam Visitor’s Bureau documented more than 125,000 dive visitors in 2015, with no details on how many may have used the Piti site.  Understanding those numbers will help guide strategies to reduce recreational impacts on one of Guam’s most important local reefs. “Tasi” means “sea” in Chamorro.

Funding for cultural and natural resources protection and management was provided under what was formerly called the Coral Reef Initiative and is available under CFDA# 15.875 at All four U.S. territories of the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands as well as the three freely associated states of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau are eligible to apply.

Discretionary funding provided by the Office of Insular Affairs in the Department of the Interior is appropriated annually by the U.S. Congress to help address needs in the U.S. Insular Areas.

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.



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