Maryland's Invasive and Exotic Species

Federal, Regional and State Support for Invasive Species Management

Federal Support for Invasive Species Management

In 1900, Congress passed the Lacey Act (16 U.S.C. § 701) which prohibits the importation and movement across state lines of certain fish and wildlife species without Federal authority in order to protect diminishing populations of species in certain parts of the nation and to regulate the introduction of species. Most recently, species of snakehead (Channa sp.) were added to the list of species that may not be imported into the United States or moved across state lines without a federal permit.

In 1990, the Non-Indigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act 16 (U.S.C. § 4701 et seq) was passed in Congress and was re-authorized by the National Invasive Species Act in 1996. This created a national Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force, which was given authority to research and develop guidelines for ships to report their ballast water treatment or treat their ballast water, among other national concerns, and provided funding for regional and state plans and panels to better coordinate aquatic invasive species management. The Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Deputy Secretary of the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration co-chair this Task Force, which includes membership from a variety of federal agencies and ex-officio members from important watersheds across the nation, including the Chesapeake Bay

Re-authorization of this Act was introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate on September 18, 2002, as the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act (H.R. 5395/5396 and S. 2964).

In 1994, sixteen Federal agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding creating the coordinating body called the Federal Interagency Committee for the Management of Noxious and Exotic Weeds (FICMNEW). The charter of this group requires it to monitor the occurrence and extent of noxious weed invasions and to coordinate Federal management of these species.

In 1998, Congress passed a bill authorizing the appropriation of up to $2.9 million over three years for the Maryland Marsh Restoration and Nutria Control Project (P.L. 105-322)

Re-authorization of this funding (H.R. 4044) passed the House of Representatives on May 14, 2002.

In 1999, President Clinton issued Executive Order 13112 which created a National Invasive Species Council (NISC) to coordinate federal agency management of invasive species. It directs the NISC to draft and distribute a national invasive species plan. It also directs each Federal agency to prevent the introduction of invasive species.

In 2000, Congress passed the Plant Protection Act (7 U.S.C. 7701 et. seq), which:

  1. Streamlines, modernizes and enhances the authority of the Secretary of Agriculture relating to plant protection and quarantine,

  2. Prohibits the import, export, and movement in interstate commerce, or mailing of any plant pest unless authorized by the Secretary of Agriculture,

  3. Authorizes the Secretary to prohibit or restrict the import, export, or movement in interstate commerce of any plant, plant product, biological control organism, noxious weed, or means of conveyance to prevent the introduction or dissemination of a plant pest or noxious weed.

Regional Support for Invasive Species Management

On May 8, 1992, the Chesapeake Bay Commission (CBC) unanimously adopted the following policy statement:

It is the policy of the Chesapeake Bay Commission to oppose the introduction of non-native species into the Chesapeake Bay watershed for any reason unless comprehensive environmental and economic impact studies are conducted and thoroughly evaluated in order to ensure that risks associated with the introduction are minimized. Proposals for the introduction of non-native species should be subjected to an extensive review process that provides for ample peer review by the Exotic Species Workgroup and others prior to the final decision-making process.

In December of 1993, The Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) adopted the “Chesapeake Bay Policy for the Introduction of Non-Indigenous Aquatic Species,” which requires that any jurisdiction in the Program that is planning a new introduction of a non-native, aquatic species (fish, shellfish, plants) in to the Bay must notify the CBP. The CBP must then convene an ad-hoc panel to review the planned introduction and to make recommendations to the jurisdiction regarding whether or not and how to proceed.  The ad-hoc recommendations are voluntary.

The CBP policy on unintentional introductions focuses primarily on the development of regional guidelines for evaluating the risks of various pathways for unintentional introductions.  In addition, the Policy seeks to reduce the frequency and impact of unintentional introductions into the Chesapeake Bay region through development of a combined program of education, monitoring, ballast water management, and control/eradication measures. The Policy strives to create a consistent review process, which ensures the input of the most recent scientific information and enhances the flow of information between Chesapeake Bay basin jurisdictions in matters involving non-indigenous aquatic species.

The Chesapeake 2000 Agreement (C2K) , signed in 2000 by the Governors of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia; the Mayor of Washington D.C; the Chesapeake Bay Commission; and the United States, continued and strengthened a cooperative program (the Chesapeake Bay Program) to restore the Chesapeake Bay. Included in C2K are a number of goals addressing water quality, oyster and crab restoration, erosion, and other issues.

C2K also included two primary goals regarding invasive species:

  • By 2001, identify and rank non-native, invasive aquatic and terrestrial species which are causing or have the potential to cause significant negative impacts to the Bay's aquatic ecosystem.

  • By 2003, develop and implement management plans for those species deemed problematic to the restoration and integrity of the Bay's ecosystem.

The Chesapeake Bay Program’s Living Resources Sub-committee oversees the Invasive Species Work Group (ISWG) that was assigned the completion of these goals. The ISWG developed a list of priority invasive species in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and listed six as in need of regional management plans:  mute swans, nutria, Phragmites australis, purple loosestrife, water chestnut and zebra mussels. The ISWG is currently developing these plans.

Maryland State Statutory Policies on Invasive Species

In 1994, the Maryland General Assembly passed a measure requiring the Department of Natural Resources to develop, adopt and implement a comprehensive nutria management plan to eradicate nutria from the state. (Annotated Code of Maryland NR Article 10-202.1)

The regulations under Rabies Emergency Act (COMAR prohibits the importation of any mammal for which there is no U.S. Department of Agriculture approved rabies vaccine, except for gerbils, hamsters, domestic mice and rats, chinchillas, European ferrets, domestic rabbits, guinea pigs, hedgehogs, sugar gliders and certain primates and temporary importation of mammals for use at a circus, carnival, or licensed event.

Under the Maryland statute, the importation, sale, trade, barter or exchange for use as a household pet is prohibited for fox, skunk, raccoon or bear; alligator or crocodile; any member of the cat family other than domestic cats; any poisonous snakes in certain groups. (Annotated Code of Maryland NR Article 10-621)

Maryland’s Weed Control Law lists species that may not be grown in the state and must be controlled on both public and private lands. This law is enforced by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and county weed control coordinators. In 1999, Maryland also began restricting the use of certain seeds in grass mixes.

In 2000, the Maryland General Assembly passed a measure (HB 728) requiring the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to develop a program to control Maryland’s mute swan population. (Annotated Code of Maryland NR Article 10-211)

In 2002, the Maryland Department of the Environment enacted regulations requiring ships entering the Port of Baltimore to report their ballast water treatment plan for that port calling. These regulations encourage ships to discharge and replace ballast water in the open ocean if it is at all possible. These regulations are intended to help Maryland officials better understand the potential for invasive aquatic species to infest Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay through the release of ballast water at port.

In 2002, the Maryland Senate passed a Joint Resolution (#15), urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to craft and conduct appropriate regulatory processes to allow Maryland to establish a method of controlling its mute swan population.

In 2002, the Maryland General Assembly passed a statute providing authority to the Department of Natural Resources to limit or prohibit importation, use, catching, or possessing the green crab (Carcinus maenas); the Japanese shore crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus); and the Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis). (Annotated Code of Maryland NR Article 4-816)

Also in 2002, the Maryland General Assembly passed a statute requiring the Department of Natural Resources to study the Suminoe oyster (Crassostrea ariakensis) and other non-native oyster species to include an analysis of ecological benefits and risks, reproductive capability of the species in Maryland waters for the purposes of fisheries restoration and proceeding in accordance with the National Academy of Sciences’ review of the Suminoe Oyster. (MD HB 353, 2002)


Jonathan McKnight
Associate Director, Habitat Conservation
Wildlife & Heritage Service
Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave., E-1
Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 260-8539
Toll-free in Maryland:
1-877-620-8DNR, Ext. 8539