That’s according to a new report from National Marine Fisheries Service that Clownfish (Percula) may warrant protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act because of threats from global warming and ocean acidification. The service will now conduct a status review to decide whether the Clownfish will be protected under the Act. The original petition (warning: large PDF).
If Clownfish were declared an endangered species it would allow for imports into the US to stop and ban movement of both wild harvested and captive bred fish within the United States. In other words: you wouldn’t be able to keep a Clownfish in your tank without breaking federal law and receiving a hefty fine and prison sentence.
Interestingly, another Coral petition is under way. A quick recap of the Coral timeline.
How did we get here?
In 2010 about 83 species were petitioned by the Center for Biological Diversity to be listed as threatened or endangered. Of those 83, the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) found 82 of them warranted further investigation and a significant number of them would be listed as endangered or threatened later.
In 2012 NOAA and the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) made public their intention to move forward with the proposal to list 66 species of stony corals under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
In 2013 NOAA and NMFS extended the deadline for comments for the listing of ocean life.
Who is behind the original petition?
The Center for Biological Diversity, based in Tucson, was founded by three ex-Forest Service workers, Peter Galvin, Kierán Suckling and Todd Shulke after they were fired in 1989. Their annual budget (around 7.1MM in 2011) comes mostly from contributions and donations. “Their motives might appear altruistic but if you dig deeper the group is on a 20 year quest to revenge their firing,” according to Gary from Acton California. He added: “The Center collects obscure and unstudied species for a single purpose, specifically for use in their own genre of lawsuits.”
A 2008 article in the Tucson Citizen entitled “Group a force of nature for endangered species” highlighted Gary’s point as the groups efforts to “hobble Fish & Wildlife, the federal agency with the task of protecting the nation’s endangered species. Since 2000, the agency has spent nearly all of its endangered species listing budget complying with court orders arising from lawsuits such as the center’s.”
Interestingly, Peter Galvin one of the founders of the center is quoted in the article as bragging about winning 86 percent of cases in which they have sued—which supports earlier claims of revenge for their firing.
“Reef Fish In Peril”
The center for Biological Diversity actually list “reef fish in peril” on their website as a way to “educate” the general public”—don’t think the timing is by accident as Disney’s Finding Dory is scheduled to hit audiences in 2015.
In 2011 we found they generated 7.1MM of contributions with 5.5MM of that being spent on program expenses, which is what the group spends on the programs, and services it exists to deliver. The (CFBD) spent around 380K on employee payroll and 647K in “fundraising expenses”. Karen Suckling made $123, 961 for duties related to Executive Director and salaries can range from “$30,000 to $50,000” according to the Tucson Citizen.
One new player that has emerged is shipping companies seeking to stop the centers moves into the space. Obviously they would be impacted if species like the common clownfish were to be banned from international transportation. The most common method of shipping live goods is airfreight a highly expensive and lucrative business in the logistics industry filling passenger and cargo planes unused “deadspace” next to your luggage.
What you can do
If you are a part of the aquatics industry (hobbyist, stores, distributor, wholesaler, collector) do not think you are not immune to what is happening. We advise you to donate to PIJAC which is the only major non profit supporting the greater pet industry as a whole including the aquatics industry.