How much damage is being done to our waters and our fisheries by the aquarium trade and its irresponsible customers? Far more than you might think.
In my previous post, I quoted a University of California professor who said, “Globally, the aquarium trade has contributed a third of the world's worst aquatic and invasive species.”
Now a biologist friend has provided me with what looks to be the source for that statistic. It is contained in a paper published in 2004. That being the case, I suspect that 1/3 is, by now, an underestimate of the problem.
Sadly, I also suspect that this eye-opening expose has been read by few outside the scientific community. It needs to be read by anglers, environmentalists, and especially by our members of Congress, who have the Constitutional authority and obligation to protect us from this assault on our fisheries and other natural resources by the aquarium trade.
I hope that you will take a look at it --- it’s only eight pages --- and that you will pass it on to others, including your Congressional representatives.
Here’s the introduction, and please note that internet sales are a huge part of this problem:
"Aquatic invasive species are just a mouse click away from any home in America. There are more than 11 million hobbyists in the U.S. alone, supporting a $25 billion-per-year worldwide industry in aquarium and aquatic ornamental species, most of which are available through mail order and over the Internet (Kay and Hoyle 2001).
"For example, although water hyacinth is banned in many states, and took Florida over 100 years and considerable expense to control (Schardt 1997), it remains available over the Internet for $4.
"While aquarium release is one of the five top avenues for introduction of non-native invasive species (Ruiz et al. 1997), it has received relatively little attention from both scientists and policy makers. The aquarium and ornamental species industry is growing by 14% annually worldwide, and the majority of export dollars enter developing countries.
"Far outstripping the per-pound value of harvested wild fish, ornamental fish harvest and culture is being promoted as a pathway to environmentally sustainable development by the Fisheries Resources Office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. However, this largely unregulated industry poses a serious but mostly unrecognized threat to marine and freshwater ecosystems as a source of invasive species."
In a nutshell:
- A third of the world’s worst aquatic invasive species are aquarium or ornamental species.
- The lucrative aquarium trade will never be environmentally sustainable unless the consequences of escapees are considered.
- Regulations to prevent unwanted species introductions from aquarium and ornamental sources currently lack authority.
- A white list of native or safe alternative aquarium and ornamental species will help prevent unwanted introductions.
Here’s a link to the paper, entitled Beyond ballast water: aquarium and ornamental trades as sources of invasive species in aquatic ecosystems.
And here’s a link for information about H.R. 996, Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act. It would set up a white list and a black list for exotic species.
And --- big surprise! --- it’s opposed by the U.S. Herpetoculture Alliance.
Here is a portion of the alliance’s mission statement:
“Our primary mission is to fight for and to protect the rights of herpetoculturists nationwide by impacting regulatory actions at the federal, state and local levels.”
This organization isn’t directly responsible for the exploding population of Burmese pythons in the Everglades and iguanas spreading throughout much of Florida. But it is supportive of lax regulations and policies that allowed these things to happen, as well as the invasion of our waters by snakeheads, cichlids, hydrilla, Eurasian watermilfoil, and many other problematic fish and plant species.
Please, tell your members of Congress to do something about this ever-growing threat to our waters and our fisheries.