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Japanese cargo ship turned away after gypsy moths found onboard

August 16, 2011 |  4:48 pm

Gypsy moths
A Japanese cargo ship was sent back into international waters last week after federal inspectors found two dozen Asian gypsy moth egg masses on board when it arrived at the Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport, officials said Tuesday.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and agriculture specialists found 24 egg masses in different areas of the ship, including the gangway, main deck, superstructure and hatches. They also found one dead adult moth.

The Asian gypsy moth has never become established in North America, but experts have warned that it could destroy forest habitats because of the moths' lifespan and appetite.

Because of the large amount of egg masses and their locations, authorities gave the ship's officials the option of returning to Japan or moving to international waters while the eggs were removed and the boat was treated; the ship's agents chose the latter option.

The ship was reinspected Friday and deemed pest-free.

Customs and Border Protection "is at the front line of our borders to prevent the entry of such pests and takes an aggressive approach with inspection, isolation and exclusion of contaminated ships,” Todd Owen, director of Los Angeles Field Operations, said in a statement.

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-- Kate Mather

Photo: Asian gypsy moth eggs. Credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

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