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E-M:/ MEDIA RELEASE: Congress Steps Up to Screen Invasive Animals in Trade



MEDIA RELEASE

For immediate release

January 28,2009

 

Defenders of Wildlife * Great Lakes United * National Audubon Society * National Wildlife Federation * Union of Concerned Scientists

 

Congress Steps Up to Screen Invasive Animals in Trade

Conservation groups applaud new legislation to stop the next Burmese python, Asian carp, and monkeypox virus

 

(January 28, 2008)  On Monday, H.R. 669, the Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act, was introduced by Congresswoman Bordallo to the Natural Resources Committee of the House of Representatives. Conservation groups applaud this effort to limit risky and invasive animals and diseases they might carry from being imported to the United States in commerce.

 

“Screening species for invasiveness is long overdue,” said Peter Jenkins, Director of International Conservation for Defenders of Wildlife, “For far too long the pet, aquarium and other industries have imported live animals to the United States without regard to their harm. As a leading import market, the United States receives hundreds of millions of these animals each year.”

 

Inevitably, some imported animals, from the Burmese python, the snakehead fish, to several species of Asian carp, end up on our lands and in our waters. Too often, they escape from captivity, are dumped by those who no longer want them, are released by floods, or carry diseases, like salmonella, monkeypox, and avian influenza.   

 

“Species like Asian carp would have been banned from the United States if this bill were in place earlier,” said Jennifer Nalbone, Campaign Director from Great Lakes United. “If we put the new approach in place now, we can stop the next invader.”

 

The United States does not currently require that animal species being imported first be evaluated (or “screened”) for invasiveness, for diseases they might carry, or for the risks they pose to human or wildlife  health. Current federal law, the Lacey Act, merely list species as “injurious,” usually after they have been imported to the United States and mostly after the damage has been done. This policy flies in the face of both common sense and scientific research.

 

“For a century we have relied on an antiquated approach to the trade of live animals,” said Mike Daulton, National Audubon Society. “Finally Congress is embracing the adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

 

“We urgently need this bill,” said Phyllis Windle, Senior Scientist and Director of Invasive Species for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Every major scientific report on invasive species in the last 15 years has recommended the approach this bill takes. With it, Congress has a critical chance to protect the natural habitats we know and love.”

 

H.R. 669 would modernize existing law. The Lacey Act is old (enacted in 1900); slow (listing a damaging species averages about 4 years); reactive; and incomplete (only about 20 taxa of live organisms are listed). HR 669 would fix all of these problems.

 

“In our globalized world, animals are traded across continents every day,” said Corry Westbrook Legislative Director from the National Wildlife Federation. “Enacting this bill would be one of the most significant policy advances we can make to prevent harmful invasions in the United States and to prepare for changing climates.”

 

For more information contact:

·         Peter T. Jenkins, Director of International Conservation, Defenders of Wildlife (202) 772-0293

·         Jennifer Nalbone, Director, Navigation and Invasive Species, Great Lakes United (716) 213-0408

·         Phyllis N. Windle, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists, (202)- 223-6133 ext. 5440   

·         Mike Daulton, Legislative Director, National Audubon Society, (202) 861-2242 ext.3030

·         Corry Westbrook, Legislative Director, National Wildlife Federation (202) 797-6840

 

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____________________________________

Brent Gibson

Director, Communications

Great Lakes United

(613) 867-9861

bgibson@glu.org | www.glu.org