A symposium of scientists, government representatives and farmers is taking place in Chinese Taipei this week to help prevent the spread of the Golden Apple Snail (Pomacea canaliculata) throughout the Asia-Pacific.
Chair of the symposium, Dr Yin-Fu Chang said "crop damage caused by the Golden Apple Snail, which is the world's largest freshwater snail species, is costing regional agricultural producers billions of dollars in lost crops each year.
"The Golden Apple Snail was introduced from South America to the Asia-Pacific in the early 1980s to meet an anticipation of a boom in restaurant demand for escargot," Dr. Chang said.
"When the escargot market did not meet investors expectations the snails were released into waterways and now the snails are undermining regional agricultural output.
"The snails have brachial respiration system allowing them to breathe in air as well as under water and so are particularly menacing to cultivated rice fields. The snails eat the base of paddy seedlings and then consume the plant's aerial leaves and stems in three to five minutes."
Dr. Chang said the snails are able to reproduce rapidly and are difficult to control despite numerous and costly attempts.
"Golden Apple Snails are able to reproduce at a high rate with females laying around 500 new eggs each week. Attempts at control and eradication have varied. Fields in Chinese Taipei have been treated with tea seed cake powder in an effort to kill the snails, while nets and special traps placed at outlets in rice fields have been used to prevent entry. Other areas have used biological controls such as introducing catfish and Peking ducklings as natural predators.
"Participants at the Symposium will share information on control and eradication methods and formulate regional management strategies. Most importantly the symposium will construct an action plan to deal with the problem for the APEC Agricultural Technical Cooperation Working Group to implement."
The 'APEC Symposium on the Management of the Golden Apple Snail' is being held on September 6-11 at the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology in Chinese Taipei.
The symposium is part of ongoing efforts by the APEC Agricultural Technical Cooperation Working Group to increase regional capacity to detect, monitor and manage invasive plant pests in the Asia-Pacific.
Scientific details on the Golden Apple Snail are available at: http://www.applesnail.net/content/species/pomacea_canaliculata.htm