Totally understand your position on this. The aquarium industry is to blame for the lion fish fiasco down in Florida. Heck, I am an avid fly fisherman here in CO and the other day they found a common pleco in the Arkansas river in Buena Vista . Brook trout have displaced our native greenback cutthroat trout in our alpine lakes and streams, but enormous efforts have rescued the greenback from extinction and are helping them to repopulate their ancestral range. Zebra and quagga mussels have changed the ecological foundations of aquatic habitats around the country as well. Nile perch have ravaged the African rift lakes and driven natives to the brink. All of these disasters are the result of invasive species being where they shouldn't be, but I ask what will banning the trade of aquatics in this country do it fix it? Not to mention that the goal of this legislation is to limit the spread of novel zoonotic infections, and does not really mention invasive species.
Another thing I think should be considered is the immense educational value of properly kept wildlife. People living in most areas of the world would never have a chance to see a living, wild coral reef. I'm sure that many of us here can remember the first time you went to the public aquarium or the zoo and saw a clownfish hiding in an anemone or a giraffe grazing off of a 20 foot tall tree. Many of us have been fueled by those experiences to keep our own tiny piece of nature and get involved/gain knowledge on the issues most threatening our planet's wild places. Where I live, you can drive 30 minutes into the mountains or plains and experience nature. 60% of humans on this planet live in an urban setting and cannot do the same. Zoos, aquariums, and home hobbyists bring that experience to them and help to spark that same love for our planet that many animal keepers share. Removing that ability to see nature first hand will surely make it harder for people to love and get involved with conservation and eco friendly practices. It is so much harder to care about something you have never seen with your own eyes.
Once a sweeping ban goes into place, it will be much harder to recover the non-damaging subsets of the wildlife trade like aquarium fish collection (fresh and saltwater alike). I am very much for eliminating the most damaging and immoral parts of the wild life trade (ivory, big cat pelts, pangolin scales, etc), but I worry that a group of legislators lacking subject matter expertise could really do some damage to the aquarium hobby. That's why I signed. We'll see where this goes and what the future hold. I totally agree that things do need to change, but I worry that this issue is not as binary as many seem to think.
I sign letter too***We ask you not to post any political posts. All political posts will be removed***
A letterauthored by leading pet care industry groups to Senators Cory Booker and Lindsey Graham and Representatives Mike Quigley and Michael T. McCaul was sent in response to an April 8, 2020 letter which recommended a ban on the international trade of wildlife. Please use the form below to submit a request if you would like your name to be included on this letter.
You can find the form here.
As the unprecedented situation surrounding the global coronavirus pandemic develops, we in the safe, responsible, and regulated pet trade understand that government officials are considering policy changes while working to stop the spread of COVID-19. It is important for those in the legal and regulated U.S. pet trade to share their concerns on potential impacts to both domestic and international trade and ensure these officials receive accurate and science-based information on issues of concern.
Response to letter from U.S. Senators and Representatives recommending a ban on the international trade of wildlife to international organizations.
Open Letter to Senators Cory A. Booker and Lindsey O. Graham and Representatives Mike Quigley and Michael T. McCaul Regarding Your Requested Ban on the International Trade of Live Wildlife
We in the responsible pet care community are extremely concerned by the threat to human health posed by the rapidly evolving coronavirus pandemic, and applaud many of the steps taken by government at all levels to help control the spread of disease and support economically devasted Americans. However, we urge you to reconsider the sweeping prohibition on international live wildlife trade that you requested in your April 8, 2020, letter to the WHO, OIE and FAO. This action would provide little defense against future novel widespread infections, while doing dramatic damage to American businesses.
Like you, we are dedicated to preventing the spread of zoonotic diseases, but so-called “wet markets,” where novel human diseases have originated, should not be conflated with the broad legal international wildlife trade. The COVID-19 virus was not spread internationally through wildlife, but instead through human-to-human contact. Wildlife has been legally imported into the U.S. for over 50 years without creating a zoonotic incident, and these animals pose no more threat to human health than imported and domestic animals that are already in the country.
According to the 2019-2020 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 67% of American households (84.9 million) own at least one pet—and the ideal pet for over 19.5 million of those households is a reptile, small mammal, bird or fish. Many of these are wild-caught or farm-raised internationally. Those that are raised domestically come from breeders who must regularly acquire new animals from unrelated bloodlines to prevent inbreeding. Halting the legal international trade of these species would eliminate the opportunity to enjoy the physical and emotional benefits of pet ownership, such as lowering stress and blood pressure, for millions of Americans.
Just one example is aquarium stores. A ban on the importation of wildlife would unnecessarily devastate the aquarium hobby, as fish pose zero risk of being infected and carrying COVID-19, and pose little risk of carrying any zoonotic disease. There are very few marine species collected or bred in the U.S., so a ban would end saltwater aquarium keeping and the thousands of American small businesses that provide equipment, fish, supplies and maintenance services to those hobbyists would be forced to close.
Captive breeding of reptiles and arachnids has been highly successful in the United States, but these programs must continually have access to new breeding stock to ensure genetic diversity. Breeders often bring in new animals from responsible, well-regulated overseas breeding facilities. Also, many of the reptiles, small mammals such as ferrets, and arachnids bred in the United States are exported to other countries. A ban on wildlife trade would destroy the market for those artisanal breeding operations, which are often small local businesses.
We ask you to work with the WHO, OIC and FAO to ensure that these agencies’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic focuses on the true threat from “wet markets” and does not create unintended consequences for responsible pet owners and businesses. Live animals for the pet trade have moved between countries successfully for decades under a heavily regulated and internationally monitored system that protects both human and animal health. A broad ban on the existing legal trade in live animals will do little to protect Americans from another novel zoonotic disease outbreak. It will only do great harm to already suffering small businesses and deprive millions of families of the joys of pet ownership.
If you have any questions or need additional information, we in the responsible pet care community stand ready to help you develop thoughtful and science-based measures to safeguard both human and animal health and well-being.
Mike Bober, President and CEO, Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council
Steve King, CEO, American Pet Products Association
Vic Mason, President, World Pet Association
Celeste Powers, President, Pet Industry Distributors Association
Kevin Erickson, President, Marine Aquarium Societies of North America
Phil Goss, President, United States Association of Reptile Keepers
Robin M. Turner, Executive Director, Animal Transportation Association
Patti Strand, President, National Animal Interest Alliance