Newly proposed federal legislation is taking aim at halting the importation and interstate trade of non-native livestock, including fish and aquatic organisms bred or collected for the aquarium trade. This isn’t the first time legislation like this was proposed and while it has some potentially good merits, it is still fatally flawed.
Introduced as H.R. 996: Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act on March 6, 2013 in the US House of Representatives by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the act is basically a rewrite of H.R. 669. First proposed in 2008, we covered H.R. 669 as it made its way through the subcommittees before being defeated.
H.R. 996 is being positioned as a way to ”
establish an improved regulatory process for injurious wildlife to prevent the introduction and establishment in the United States of nonnative
wildlife and wild animal pathogens and parasites that are likely to cause harm.”
H.R. 996 has 28 co-sponsors and has been referred to four different committees: House Natural Resources- Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs, House Budget, House Judiciary, House Ways and Means committees.
How H.R. 996 is written, there will be an accepted list of common domesticated pets and livestock, along with an unaccepted list. If the species is not on the accepted whitelist, it will be illegal to sell or own. The blanket power of the blacklist to designate common species we see in the hobby, including thousands of species of fish, aquatic invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians found in the pet trade.
This is what is flawed about the approach as all species deemed unacceptable would be prohibited under the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act. H.R. 996 would make it criminal to import or ship in interstate commerce and be subject to sanctions under the Lacey Act.
Startling, this not only covers the 50 states and District of Columbia, but would also extend to cover: Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the US Virgin Islands.
According to reports we’ve read, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), along with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) reportedly will introduce a companion bill into the US Senate later in this session.
While invasive species such as the lionfish in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean; Hypostomus plecostomus plaguing rivers and lakes in Texas; and the Burmese python issue in Florida give more power to a bill like this passing, there is a better way to help control the issue at hand besides legislation like this.
As with any government legislation, the onus will be on the public to present species to be removed from the blacklist that will most certainly come at a significant cost and red tape. As we learn more, we will share ways to get your voice heard in this conversation.
[via Reef to Rainforest]
Download H.R. 996 PDF