PIJAC Represents Companion Animal Industry's Efforts on Invasive Species
Last week was National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW). The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) has long engaged on this critically important issue, which has a wide and diverse impact on America’s environment, animals and economy.
PIJAC has long led the companion animal industry’s efforts on invasive species. We were proud to sponsor NISAW for the first time and attend four events in Washington, D.C. with experts from government and private-sector organizations. PIJAC was able to provide our perspective to leaders in the field and hear what they had to say from their areas of expertise.
The first event PIJAC attended was a luncheon attended by PIJAC deputy director of government affairs Joshua Jones and entitled “Gene Drives 101: Perspectives on Potential Invasive Species Management.” The speaker, Heath Packard from Island Conservation, explored the concept of gene drives and how this method of introducing certain genetic traits to a specific population could be used to reduce invasive species’ fertility—and, thus, their population.
This is still in the theoretical stage, and risks exist if a particular effort is not isolated to target areas and species. Packard said that gene drives have the potential to avoid limitations and challenges associated with current methods of invasive species removal, such as spreading rodenticide across large areas.
I attended a working meeting with the National Invasive Species Council and the NISAW Capitol Hill reception. PIJAC’s director of communications Dustin Siggins joined me in representing the organization. We met with a number of federal agencies and private organizations working on invasive species issues. Many federal staffers from Congressional offices and important committees attended the reception.
Finally, Dustin attended a panel discussion on early detection and rapid response. Leaders in the field, including PIJAC founder and former CEO Marshall Myers, analyzed gaps in identifying, reporting and verification processes, as well as current and anticipated technological advancements to prevent invasive species. A major concern cited was federal resources available for observation, reporting, verification and prevention.
The detection and response panel suggested that drone technology will play a significant role in the detection of invasive species, as will the empowerment of “citizen scientists” if efficient identifying and reporting processes are created and disseminated.
PIJAC was proud to represent the companion animal industry at these events. We asked incisive questions, offered our expertise to all of the great partners in invasive species awareness and prevention, and set the stage for possible greater involvement in next year’s National Invasive Species Awareness Week. We were especially pleased to meet with leading groups such as the Reduce Risk from Invasive Species Coalition—NISAW’s organizer—and federal agencies for greater potential partnerships.
Mike Bober is president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC). PIJAC members include retailers, companion animal suppliers, manufacturers, wholesale distributors, manufacturers’ representatives, pet hobbyists and other trade organizations.