PIJAC –one of the if not only organization that is actively working in the interests of the aquatics industry announced a major update to the active petitions and strategy
surrounding our dear friends at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). Ultimately the group is asking for all of us to support them as they protect the reef hobby and the great aquatics industry as a whole. While most of these processes are happening in the jurisdiction of the United States, however, the Endangered Species Act spawned CITES which governs most all International trade regarding plants and animals. If a species is added to the ESA then it sends ripples to the governing animal body for CITES and most of the time CITES adopts the ruling.
PIJAC Timeline and Update
In 2011, a Federal Coral Reef Bill was drafted by the late honorable Senator Daniel K. Inouye one which PIJAC submitted an analysis of the draft bill which ultimately led to the decision to not introduce the bill. For the past several years there is an ever-increasing anti-trade rhetoric and activity from the animal rights and environmental activist communities.
PIJAC is currently involved in a Court of Appeals case involving Hawaii’s Aquarium collection permit system which comes from a lawsuit against the state of Hawaii by one such group. Do you remember Snorkel Bob? He did not help the situation.
In October 2012 a group of aquatics industry associates established an “aquatics committee within PIJAC with the goal of addressing issues related to the aquatics marine ornamental trade. “At that time, numerous industry participants were invited to support the effort and to help strategize how best to address the growing threats facing the ornamental aquatics community. A restricted funds account was also established where direct contributions could be received to help fund PIJAC’s expenditures incurred via this committees efforts. For the past 2 years, this committee has been engaged with the scientific community, with various regulatory agencies, and with legal counsel specializing in environmental law.
PIJAC has and continues to support reasonable laws, regulations, and science-based policies and has successfully opposed trade bans and poorly crafted regulations. These efforts require fundraising as well as communicating those efforts to our industry.
On September 10, 2014, NOAA’s Final Rule listing 20 additional coral species as threatened was published in the Federal Register. This is a significant and historic decision, and could have sweeping impacts on all aspects of our aquatics industry, as well as industries enjoying terrestrial species, captive bred or otherwise, whose natural wild populations are deemed as potentially threatened due to climate change.
Once the 273-page Final Rule is fully reviewed, PIJAC, in consultation with its lawyers, will develop a legal strategy for addressing this final listing, including how best to respond to the November 10, 2014, deadline to provide comments on a potential ESA Section 4(d) rule. Such a strategy may include developing comments for submission to NOAA regarding a 4(d) rule, meeting with NOAA to discuss these comments, and evaluating other opportunities to further clarify or challenge certain aspects of the final rule. It is far from clear at this point how the listing decision will impact the pet industry and hobby. As we better understand the scope and full effect of this action, we will communicate with the industry and hobby community regarding these matters.
Additionally, there have been two other petitions filed to list a large number of aquatic species to the ESA. A July 2013 WildEarth Guardians petition to List 81 fish (PDF) species was met with the agency’s February 24, 2014 publishing a 90 day finding that action may be warranted for a number of the petitioned species, specifically Pterapogon kauderni (Bangaii cardinalfish). In September 2012 the CBD filed a petition to list eight species of Pomacentrid reef fish (damselfishes) under the ESA to which, on September 3, 2014, NOAA issued its 90 day finding that Amphiprion percula (Percula Clownfish) did warrant a status review, while six of the petitioned species did not. We await the 90 day finding for the eighth, Dascyllus albisella, the Hawaiian Dascyllus damselfish. PIJAC is collecting trade, distribution and abundance data for these species and developing a response to these actions as well.
Endangered vs Threaten
One of the interesting items regarding the Endangered Species act is there is no difference from an enforcement aspect regarding an endanagered or threaten species. If you get caught for a species is say threatened you still won’t pass go and won’t collect $200. We are using a monopoly reference here but you should get the point. You lose. In fact fines range as low as $3500 for transporting interstate (PDF) for your first offense up to the maximum of $50,000 plus a min one year jail time which is a statutory maximum for those of you keeping count at home. As a bonus it’s considered a felony here in the United States.
Captive Bred vs Wild Caught
Under the current provisions of the ESA and CITES there is no difference between captive bred and wild caught. Meaning if you think we are okay with saying captive bred you’re wrong. The same rules apply and there is not a group besides us making a claim about the same. Regardless if you the hobbyist, wholesaler or distributor have a captive bred specimen you’ll still be held accountable to the rules and regulations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Do you think senators and the like have time to make such an important differentiation? No.
PIJAC Update II
The PIJAC Aquatics Committee is in the process of reviewing petitions and determinations, consulting authoritative members of the scientific community, and strategizing with legal counsel to ensure that decisions made by NOAA to list these species are indeed supported by the best available scientific data, and that the value of the ESA is not undermined due it’s novel application to protect species for which populations, distributions, and adaptability to anticipated climate change are not well enough documented or understood.
Collectively and responsibly, through PIJAC, our aquatic community can work with the agencies and the scientific community to ensure that our activities are not imperiling any species, moreover that we represent solutions to their preservation. By joining PIJAC and by pledging support for the Aquatics Defense Fund, wholesalers, manufacturers, dealers, aquarium hobbyists, and others concerned about the preservation of aquatic life empower PIJAC to work hard on these serious issues facing our industry. Please join PIJAC, and pledge your additional support for the future of Ornamental Aquatics Industry
The PIJAC aquatics committee includes: Sandy Moore (Co-Chair). Chris Buerner (Co-Chair). Julian Sprung, Dustin Dorton, Kevin Kohen and Marshall Meyers (Advisor).