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our hobby under threat from extremist minority

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Post subject: our hobby under threat from extremist minority
Posted: Sun Feb 06, 2022 1:14 pm
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⚠️ IMPORTANT UPDATE! ⚠️
The America COMPETES Act (HR4521) has passed the House, and will now go to the Senate to be voted on. Please join us in asking your state Senator to vote NO on the COMPETES Act as the new amendment will irrevocably harm the aquarium hobby by limiting which fish are legally allowed into the country. The Department of Fisheries and Wildlife has not done ecological risk studies on many fish in the aquarium hobby, and any fish that hasn't had a risk study completed could be banned from import if this Act passes a vote in the Senate.

To view if your House Representative voted yes, click here: https://clerk.house.gov/Votes/202231.

To find your state Senator's contact information, click here: https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm.

Let them know that you don’t agree with the new amendment as it would:

Create a white list of approved species that can be imported, where any animal not listed is treated as an injurious species by default and banned from importation into the United States;
Change the Lacey Act shipment clause to ban the interstate transport of species listed as injurious; and
Establish new emergency powers that would allow USFWS to use an "emergency designation" that is effective immediately after publication in the Federal Register unless extended up to 60 days to prohibit importation of species if found injurious to humans, ag, horticulture, forestry, wildlife or wildlife resources of U.S. for no more than 3 years.

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Post subject: Re: our hobby under threat from extremist minority
Posted: Sun Feb 06, 2022 1:21 pm
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Federal Legislation Threatens Pets, Zoos, Aquariums, and Biomedical Research
04 Feb, 2022

Proposed revisions to the Lacey Act have passed in the House, are headed to the Senate, and could bring the entire pet trade and hobby to a grinding halt.
Proposed revisions to the Lacey Act have passed in the House, are headed to the Senate, and could bring the entire pet trade and hobby to a grinding halt.
Editor’s Note: This is a fast-moving situation, and H.R. 4521 has reportedly been passed in the House on the morning of February 4th, 2022 (vote record here), with the problematic Lacey Act amendments in place. This article was published prior to that, and the progress of H.R. 4521 now depends on Senate actions.

via National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA)


Author Art Parola
by Art Parola

A last-minute amendment to the COMPETES Act, H.R. 4521, was slipped in, presumably to avoid attention and pushback from the millions of Americans who will be affected, and to bypass congressional hearings. The language creates a major change to the provisions of the Lacey Act that regulate species deemed by US Fish & Wildlife Service to be injurious. While promoted under the guise of protecting the country from invasive species, the true goal of the legislative change is to ban as much of the wildlife trade as possible. Many of the organizations pushing this change oppose keeping animals in zoos, public aquariums, research facilities, and sometimes even as pets. While these organizations do not have the public support to implement their agenda outright, they have been effective in hijacking otherwise legitimate initiatives to achieve their ideological goals quietly, piece by piece.

Currently, the Lacey Act allows US Fish & Wildlife Service to promulgate rules that list species that could be injurious “to human beings, to the interests of agriculture, horticulture, forestry, or to wildlife or the wildlife resources of the United States.” Every state in the US also has legal and regulatory mechanisms for banning species that could cause harm to native species and habitats. The current federal Lacey Act list, and most state lists, are often referred to as “Black Lists.” Any species on the list is prohibited, while any species not on the list is allowed to be imported into the respective jurisdiction, sometimes with stipulations such as permit or health certificate requirements. This method of regulation is often regarded as best regulatory practice because it allows jurisdictions to prevent unwanted environmental and health threats that are relevant to their region without being overly burdensome to organizations, businesses, and individuals.

The language in the COMPETES Act would change the Lacey Act list to what is often referred to as a “White List.” If the bill passes, only species that go through an administrative rulemaking process and are found not to be a risk or an injurious species would be allowed to be imported into the United States. Any species not listed would be presumed to be injurious and would be banned from import. All species would be in essence regarded as guilty until proven innocent.

There are multiple problems with taking this regulatory approach.

First, it is impossible to prove a negative. Meeting the burden of proof to show a species would not be injurious is onerous and will require significant time and financial resources. Navigating the petition and listing process will be next to impossible for the average person, not to mention the problems in overcoming any subsequent legal challenges to listings.

The Lacey Act is a federal law, meaning if a species could be injurious anywhere in the United States including its territories and possessions, it could be considered injurious. Due to the vast differences in climate and habitats, effectively regulating potentially invasive species in Ohio or Minnesota requires evaluating drastically different criteria than in Florida or Hawaii, or Puerto Rico. However, the Lacey Act is inflexible and leaves no room for more localized regulations. If a species could be a threat in south Florida, it is deemed to be a threat in Minnesota as well. Therefore, rules to prevent invasive species are most effective when implemented at the state level and not as a one size fits all approach for the entirety of the country.

“White Lists” also create enforcement problems. With a “Black List,” law enforcement primarily needs to be able to identify protected and banned species. Even in these cases, law enforcement can have difficulty and federal regulations ban imports of some species solely based on similarity of appearance to another protected or banned species. The only purpose of these bans are regulatory agencies perceive it would otherwise be difficult for law enforcement personnel to implement the law. This can lead to extremes. For example, Pennsylvania bans all crayfish species. This law is primarily an attempt to prevent invasions of rusty crayfish and a few other cold-water species that legitimately threaten native ecosystems. However, this also means the orange dwarf Mexican crayfish, a popular tropical aquarium species, is banned. An ecological risk screening by US Fish & Wildlife Service gives the species a climate match score of 0 (the lowest score possible and a key indicator that the species presents no invasion risk) for the entire state of Pennsylvania. There is also little to no risk of confusing an orange dwarf Mexican crayfish with species that would actually harm the state’s aquatic ecology. Despite no reasonable purpose for banning the species in Pennsylvania, keeping orange Mexican dwarf crayfish is a crime at the state level, and could even become a federal felony if prosecuted under criminal provisions of federal law pertaining to state, tribal, and foreign wildlife violations.

While “Black Lists” create some regulatory difficulties such as this, these issues are exponentially aggravated when implementing a white list, as practical enforcement of a white list will require law enforcement officials to reliably identify every species, whether listed or not. This is impossible, as millions of species exist on planet earth. Therefore, it is likely species that present effectively no risk of actually being injurious would be excluded from the “White List” due to a perceived burden on law enforcement, whether reasonable or not. Even worse, these regulations would apply across the entire US and not be confined to any single state.

Not only do species identification issues lead to overarching bans on otherwise non-injurious species, but problems can arise even when species are completely legal. Customs officials and wildlife inspection agents at ports of entry are tasked with clearing shipments of wildlife imported from abroad. Often, getting the shipments cleared and to their final destination as quickly as possible is paramount for the health and welfare of the animals. Misidentifications and mistakes by inspectors can lead to holding and seizure of perfectly legal shipments, resulting in significant stress on the animals being transported. This already can be an issue within the current regulatory framework. But moving from a current Lacey Act “Black List” to a “White List” would result in even more instances of mistakenly held and seized shipments due to the increased complexity for custom officials and inspection agents. This will significantly increase the cost of enforcement and reduce animal welfare by potentially prolonging transit times.

The proposed legislation would not only significantly impact importation of animals into the United States, but also limit transportation of animals between states. Due to a 2017 D.C. Court of Appeals ruling, species listed as injurious under the Lacey Act can be moved across state lines in accordance with state laws (though many states already ban relevant Lacey Act “Black Listed” species that pose a threat to their native ecology considering their state’s respective climate and habitats).

The COMPETES Act would override the court ruling and outlaw interstate transport of all species considered injurious under the Lacey Act. Since every species not on the “White List” would be considered injurious, the proposed Lacey Act white list would not only prevent imports of most species into the US from abroad, but also ban movement between states. While animals possessed before the implementation of the white list would still likely be allowed to be kept under state law, unless the species is lucky enough to make it onto the proposed Lacey Act “White List,” transporting across state lines for any reason, whether because of a move, selling or gifting animals, or even taking an animal temporarily to another state for medical care (a common occurrence for fish, reptile, amphibian, and bird keepers, since finding a veterinarian specializing in treating non-mammals can sometimes be difficult) could result in federal prosecution.

Prosecution under the Lacey Act can be severe and heavy-handed. Each violation can be prosecuted as a federal felony with a maximum punishment of $20,000 and/or five years imprisonment. Additional civil penalties could also be levied.

Changes proposed in the COMPETE Act will affect bird keepers, reptile and amphibian enthusiasts, and any other organization, business, or person who works with non-native wildlife. The definition of “wildlife” covers almost every animal, no matter how many generations it may be removed from its wild counterparts, with very few exceptions aside from dogs and cats. The consequences for reptile and amphibian keepers, bird owners, aquarists, and other pet owners if the COMPETES Act passes will be severe. This means every reptile, amphibian, arachnid, bird, fish, coral, and invertebrate will be subject to the new restrictions, whether captive-bred, ranched, farmed, aquacultured, maricultured, or collected from a wild source or fishery. With more than 10,000 species of birds, reptiles, amphibians, arachnids, fish, corals, and invertebrates kept by hobbyists and in the trade, it is likely only a small fraction of species would initially be able to overcome the onerous listing process on the “White List.” The process of petitioning to add species to the “White List” will be costly and time-consuming, and likely be challenged in court by well-funded animal rights organizations, resulting in long and costly delays, if successful at all. Most species will likely be considered injurious without any reason other than an unsurmountable burden of proving otherwise. For species that do manage to make it onto the “White List,” prices will likely rise significantly. Undescribed and newly discovered species will almost certainly cease to exist in the American hobby and trade. Even domestic captive breeding, aquaculture, and fisheries will be severely curtailed as companies and individuals will, for the most part, be limited solely to the “White Listed” species. For all intents and purposes, this legislation will dramatically change the hobby and pet trade as we know it, resulting in significantly reduced availability of species, diminished interest in pet keeping, severe retraction in the size of the industry resulting in substantial job losses, both in the US and abroad, and an extreme reduction in the scientific, economic, cultural, educational, and conservation benefits of the bird, reptile, amphibian, and aquarium hobbies and trade.

Let your congress member know your views on this amendment to the COMPETES Act, H.R. 4521.

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Ned
unclenedsfishfactory@gmail.com
508 533 5969
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Post subject: Re: our hobby under threat from extremist minority
Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2022 1:15 pm
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March 3 2022
From Amazonas Magazine:

LACEY ACT 911: A Letter from the Publishers

We believe aquarists are drawn to the aquarium hobby for many reasons, including reconnecting with nature, the act of creation, and an escape from the noise of the world around us. Unfortunately for aquarists in the U.S., proposed legislation could end aquarium keeping as we know it.

So, as we head into the latest AMAZONAS Newsletter, we ask for your patience as we continue to cover this troubling news. We ask that you avoid clicking that "unsubscribe" link, too, because we will get back to more enjoyable topics! Right now, this is the news, and it should be reported.

While credible sources believe there is little chance of the proposed Lacey Act legislation being signed into law, aquarists should not be complacent or indifferent. For all the times that legislation like this has failed to pass in the House, this time it did. As marine aquarium fishermen in Hawaii learned first-hand, despite years of successfully preventing the closure of their fishery with supportive data and state agency backing, the anti-aquarium activists needed to win only once, and by closing the fishery, everything changed. Experts suggest that these Lacey Act proposals are just the latest in a steady stream of wake-up calls that the aquarium trade and industry cannot ignore.

Current status: The America COMPETES Act (H.R. 4521) and U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S1260) will be reconciled (merged) in committee. The merged bill will likely have a new name (promoting a “Make It In America” moniker). As of 02/28/2022, H.R. 4521 was read the second time in the Senate and placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 282. The formal Senate/House conference should begin in March.

There are a few ways that you can advocate for the aquatic pastime we all enjoy:
Contact your Senators
Support the PIJAC Aquatic Defense Fund
Support USARK - while officially advocating for reptile & amphibian keepers, they are absolutely advocating on behalf of aquarists as well.
Ask the vendors you support to do the same.
Clearly, this won't be the last word on the subject, and it's far from the only threat to aquarium keeping around the globe. Even if the Lacey Act legislation fails, we ask all AMAZONAS readers not to shrug it off. While Dr. Andrew Rhyne is more familiar to marine aquarists, the insights that Dr. Rhyne provides below are of value to everyone who stands to lose should aquarium keeping be crippled or ended in the U.S.

- Matt Pedersen and Stephan M Tanner, Ph.D., AMAZONAS Magazine Publishers and Editors

Aquarium Apocalypse? Can Lacey Act Amendments Really Cripple—or End—The U.S. Aquarium (and Pet) Trade?

The news of legislation expanding the Federal government’s reach into the aquarium trade [and the larger pet trade as well] has many aquarists concerned and quite a few confused. Of course, the Internet did what the Internet does, and groups, forums, and videos are now rife with rumors, speculations, and falsehoods. So, let’s break down seven of the top myths currently circulating on social media and YouTube about the impact should the amendment to the Lacey Act be signed into law.

Get the facts...

PIJAC’s Lacey Act Update

“The threat to the responsible pet care community posed by amendments to the Lacey Act included in the COMPETES Act of 2021 (H.R.4521) is high," writes Bob Likins, Vice President of Government Affairs, PIJAC.

Get the full statement, plus PIJAC's instructions. Plus, we managed to track down the actual paper trail of the proposed Lacey Act amendments, which will help given that many aquarists have been unable to easily locate them and thus, presume they don't exist.

Learn more...

VIDEO: The Endangered Aquarium Trade

Dr. Andrew Rhyne, Professor of Marine Biology at Roger Williams University, is no stranger to analyzing the aquarium trade and encouraging reforms where needed.

The question that Dr. Rhyne poses to the aquarium industry and hobby, is “How do you channel this hysteria [over H.R. 4521] into a place of actually dealing with [aquarium trade] problems?”

Dr. Rhyne views the shuttering of Hawaii's Marine Aquarium Fishery as a wake-up call for all aquarists, freshwater and marine. He notes that attempts to legislate the aquarium trade and hobby out of existence are ever-increasing.

The Endangered Aquarium Trade
12 Feb, 2022


Dr. Andrew Rhyne: “If I had an aquarium business,” muses Dr. Rhyne. “I’d be really concerned….”
Dr. Andrew Rhyne, Professor of Marine Biology at Roger Williams University, is no stranger to analyzing the aquarium trade and encouraging reforms where needed. In addition to ongoing marine aquarium aquaculture research in his New England lab, he is currently pursuing research into better methodologies to detect the use of cyanide in fisheries.

With the sudden worry over the recently passed H.R. 4521, Dr. Rhyne is hardly surprised. First and foremost, Rhyne wants aquarists to know that in his opinion and experience, “This amendment to the LACEY Act has no chance of passing [in the Senate]. Senators are unlikely to allow an amendment to the LACEY Act to be stuck into the COMPETES Act [about all the legislation snuck into H.R. 4521].” Other legislative observers have privately given much higher odds that the Lacey Act amendments approved by the House might make it past the Senate as well. On the high side, up to a 25% chance.

The real question that Dr. Rhyne poses to the aquarium industry and hobby, is “How do you channel this hysteria into a place of actually dealing with these problems? This bill is terrible, but it’s symptomatic of the industry’s problems. The aquarium trade needs to get its house in order.”

“Be proactive: clean out the bad actors“

What does that look like? Rhyne suggests that the entities that stand to lose the most are not hobbyists, given that most aquarium hobbyists are not in the hobby “all that long” and, if the aquarium hobby were to be diminished, most participants would simply go do something else with their time and money.

Thus, Rhyne believes it falls to the aquarium industry to shift from a reactive and defensive stance against an ever-increasing onslaught of legislation, to a more proactive and responsible place in the global community.

“If I had an aquarium business,” muses Dr. Rhyne. “I’d be really concerned about smuggling, illegal activities, bad actors in the trade, because these things have the potential to impact my business. Hawaii was a hot mess, but it wasn’t started by the environmentalists, it was a few aquarium fishermen who were not following the laws, collecting where they shouldn’t, that drew attention to the fishery. People need to look at Hawaii’s aquarium fishery as a wake-up call.”

Connecting the dots: Climate change > Endangered Species > Livestock Bans

Rhyne noted that some aquarists and companies involved in aquaculture might think that they will remain insulated from the increasing pressure to shutter the aquarium industry. However, Rhyne’s forecast is not optimistic, suggesting that at some point in the future, most if not all of the corals we keep will wind up as “endangered” in the face of climate change.

Endangered Species Act listings, under the current framework, make no exceptions for captive-propagated animals, a reality that first hit home with attempts to list Amphiprion percula, the Percula Clownfish, as endangered within the ESA.

_________________

Ned
unclenedsfishfactory@gmail.com
508 533 5969
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