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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Louisiana outdoorsmen asked to help lessen spread of insect

Louisiana outdoorsmen asked to help lessen spread of insect

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana officials are again asking outdoorsmen to help stem the spread of an insect they believe is killing off Roseau cane, an important marsh grass, in the southeastern corner of the state.

State wildlife and agriculture leaders suspect an invasive, fleshy white insect from Asia, dubbed Roseau cane scale, may be leading to the death of the grass.

They're asking waterfowl hunters and fishermen not to transport Roseau cane or tie their boats to it and to take extra precautions to clean boats after they fish or hunt. The Advocate reports the aim is to limit spread of the Roseau cane scale, discovered in Louisiana in 2016.

The scale is believed to be able to move only short distances on its own without the assistance of people, state agriculture officials said.

Damage to Roseau cane is worrisome because the tall wetland grass is a critical anchor in Louisiana's eroding coastal marshes and helps protect the Mississippi River's birdfoot delta, an important waterfowl area. Roseau cane is normally one of the most erosion-resistant marsh plants on Louisiana's coast, thriving in fresh and saline environments.

The birdfoot delta, which is at the river's mouth, is in particular suffering from Roseau cane damage.

"We're seeing some pretty massive die-offs," said Todd Baker, biologist director with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

LSU Agricultural Center surveys in fall 2017 found strong concentrations of Roseau cane scale in coastal parishes in southeast Louisiana and sparser numbers as far north as East Baton Rouge, Tangipahoa and St. Tammany parishes. As the cane has died off, the marsh has converted into open water, and invasive species like water hyacinth and giant salvinia moved in.

In March, Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain declared an emergency quarantine for the Roseau cane scale across 26 parishes and parts of 10 others. Roseau cane can't be transplanted or transported in most cases in the area. Strain renewed the order in July for another 120 days while state officials follow the rule-making process for a more permanent quarantine.

In addition to the transportation limits under quarantine, state wildlife officials said hunters and fishermen should remove all Roseau cane debris from boats before they leave the marina and wash and drain boats near the marina with soapy water.

Beyond the feared impacts to the marsh, Baker said, another worry is the scale could jump to agricultural crops, like rice and sugar cane.