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International Waters: US to Ban Imports of All Aquarium Species … Except Goldfish?

Posted: July 9, 2013, 3:30 p.m. EDT

By John Dawes

Proposals currently undergoing discussion in Washington D.C. could result in a nationwide halt to imports of most pets, including fish and other aquatic organisms being bred or collected for home aquaria.

On March 6, House Bill 996 was introduced, and according to the introductory heading to this document, its aim is "To establish an improved regulatory process for injurious wildlife to prevent the introduction and establishment in the United States of nonnative wildlife and wild animal pathogens and parasites that are likely to cause harm.” Referred to, in its short form, as the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act, this legislation would have two sections of direct relevance to the ornamental aquatic industry and aquarium-keeping public.

An accepted list of pet species, the equivalent of the West Hawaii fish White List, would feature the goldfish, which would not be subject to any prohibitions or restrictions. Another list, like a black list, would consist of unacceptable species.

Gold Fish
The Goldfish: an acceptable species. Shutterstock

Because the accepted list only includes one pet fish, the goldfish, this appears to imply that all other aquarium fish species would make the unaccepted list. Further, no mention of any other aquatic organisms is made in the acceptable species list, implying that all these would appear on the unacceptable species list.

Imagine what this would mean: No more guppies, mollies, clownfish, coral, seaweed, shrimp or any of the other thousands of species kept in home aquaria throughout the United States.

The timeline mentioned in the document states that "Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall publish in the Federal Register a proposed version of the regulations …” and "Not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall promulgate final regulations required … including a public notification of the process for submission of a proposal.”

Therefore, it appears there will be time for consultation and (presumably) revision of the original proposal. Perhaps the 28 co-sponsors of this act had this in mind when they introduced House Bill 996 … and perhaps it’s always been their intention for these consultations to lead to a situation that regulates imports without necessarily labelling every species, except the goldfish, as injurious, thus subjecting it to an import ban. If so, it’s not immediately apparent. <HOME>


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