WASHINGTON: Guam, which prides itself as where America’s day begins, is also where a customs and quarantine officer made a first-in-the nation interception of a certain type of fungus. The fungus, Zasmidium orchidacearum, is only known from Asia, such as Brunei and Malaysia, the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency said in a statement on Thursday. The fungus was found during a Customs and Quarantine officer’s inspection of orchids, Dendrobium, from Thailand. The orchid was brought to Guam on board a flight from South Korea on Dec. 13, 2016, Customs said. “Today, USDA APHIS [U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service] sector Guam received word that this interception was the first interception of this pest from any U.S. port of entry,” Customs said in a statement, which added that the confirmation came from the National Identification Services. Customs said one of its officers inspected the orchids from Thailand and observed leaf spots developing on living leaves, as well as a fungus growing on the leaf’s underside.
That officer, a member of the Customs’ Biosecurity Unit, held the shipment, took a sample, and sent it to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for determination. “With the agency facing critical personnel shortages and only three assigned to the Biosecurity Unit, I feel we were fortunate this time and also am confident in our officers’ training and experience,” Customs Director James T. McDonald said. The officer who inspected the orchids has been with Customs for more than a decade, said Jessi Jon Santos-Torres, public information officer for Customs. Guam’s Customs and Quarantine Agency has only 112 uniformed officers in total and its services are required at all ports of entry, Santos-Torres said. Santos-Torres said Customs did not fine the company that brought in the orchids because it met federal and local entry requirements.