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Habitattitude Campaign Launches at SuperZoo

Posted: Nov. 1, 2004


The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and various government and academic entities, notably the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Minnesota Sea Grant, launched the Habitattitude public awareness campaign to the pet and nursery trades during the co-located SuperZoo pet industry and Western Expo nursery industry trade shows in Las Vegas last September. 

The trade program includes various display materials for retailers, with more being developed. Materials will also be available for manufacturers to include in future packaging. 

The campaign will be launched to the public at America’s Family Pet Expo in Nov, Mich., in November.

“This partnership focuses on raising public awareness, engaging people and promoting simple and consistent actions that help conserve our natural resources,” said Mamie Parker, co-chair of the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force and assistant director for fisheries and habitat conservation with the Fish and Wildlife Service. “It’s not about the fish and plants but about promoting responsible behaviors.”

Marshall Meyers
Marshall Meyers, executive vice president and general counsel of PIJAC, said the program will engage all segments of the industry to protect the environment.
The campaign will encourage consumers to not release unwanted aquarium and water-garden fish, plants and other organisms into the environment. For aquatic plants, this includes sealing them in plastic bags before throwing them out.

The Habitattitude program considers composting aquatic plants as too risky, unlike similar programs in the United Kingdom that encourage composting plants.

The program’s beginning theme is, “It’s not about fish and plants. It’s about responsible consumer behavior.”

“Beginning this fall, when aquarium hobbyists, backyard pond owners and water gardeners go to purchase fish or plants for their tanks or ponds, they’ll receive the Habitattitude message,” said Marshall Meyers, executive vice president and general counsel of PIJAC.  “Through collaboration with NOAA’s Sea Grant Program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state fish and wildlife agencies and industry partners represented by the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council the American Nursery and Landscaping Assn. and other industry partners, we plan to get Habitattitude in front of millions of consumers.”

Meyers said the program is good for business because it will engage all segments of the industry to protect the environment.

The program is designed to reduce the risk of potentially invasive species being introduced into the environment through the pet and, to a lesser extent, nursery industries. More importantly, the approach is designed to stave off regulatory solutions, such as bans.

The primary reasons the groups opted for a preventive approach include the possibility of species being introduced but not detected, a lack of scientific evidence on which species could become invasive and which would not, and the likely consumer confusion if some species were OK to release and others were not.

The program recommends consumers take the following steps when dealing with unwanted aquatic plants and fish:

a Contact a retailer for proper handling advice or for possible returns.

a Give/trade with another aquarist, pond owner or water gardener.

a Donate to a local aquarium society, school or aquatic business.

a Seal aquatic plants in plastic bags and dispose in the trash.

a Contact a veterinarian or pet retailer for guidance on humane disposal of animals.

Still being developed, the program doesn’t currently offer recommendations regarding the humane disposal of unwanted animals.

Likewise, the program doesn’t yet address what to do with unwanted water, for example, following a water change.

For now, the program’s organizers prefer owners would find another home for their unwanted fish, but seek advice on humane euthanasia if the fish owner is unwilling or unable to find an alternative home.

One option for live fish may be public aquaria serving as repositories for live fish being discarded, said Meyers. These fish could then theoretically be redistributed to other aquaria, school programs and other uses.

Another proposal, not part of the fish program, is the possibility of amnesty days and collection centers that could collect dangerous and no-longer-wanted reptiles, for example, large pythons.

PIJAC and its members have committed more that $1.1 million, including services, to the program, the Fish and Wildlife Service has put in $100,000, and the National Sea Grant Program, led by Minnesota Sea Grant, has contributed $300,000.

More details are available at www.habitattitude.net.

The article first appeared in the November 2004 issue of Pet Product News.

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