With the Florida import ban on Lionfish of the genus Pterois starting a week from today, I reached out to learn what the industry was doing to prepare.
John Reiter, proprietor of retailer Fish and Other ICHTHY Stuff, in Oldsmar, FL, simply stated that, “I stopped bringing in the genus once the ban was announced.” Reiter noted that he hasn’t posted anything about the forthcoming ban in his shop, but he has mentioned it on the shop’s Facebook page a few times, noting that Lionfish keepers aren’t really his clientele. When asked, he also relayed that he hadn’t received any official notification of the legal change from any governmental body.
Sandy Moore, vice president of Segrest Farms in Florida, relayed a similarly short, concise answer, saying that they ceased imports of Pterois spp. about 3 weeks before the ban starts. “We don’t want to have any of these fish in house…when the ban goes into effect. We have pushed the information out to the retailers we service.”
Perhaps the most thought provoking response I received came from an aquarium livestock dealer not situated anywhere close to Florida. Kevin Kohen, MASNA Aquarist of the Year and Director of Rhinelander, Wisconsin-based LiveAquaria.com, explained both the small in-house changes required for compliance, but also highlighted ongoing efforts in place to curtail problems like this from cropping up again.
Kohen first provided this official company response:
“Drs. Foster and Smith LiveAquaria.com complies with all individual state and federal regulations pertaining to aquatic plants and animal sales. We currently offer some aquarium and pond plants, fish, snails, and other invertebrates which are restricted in certain states across the country as this is nothing new for our company.
Other than adding notations regarding the new regulation which restrict sales of Pterois spp. to the state of Florida on each of their respective product pages, and selecting a few check boxes behind the scenes of our web site, we are all set to comply with this regulation.
Customers must be registered and logged into their account to complete the checkout process on LiveAquaria.com. During checkout, we have programming in place which match the customers zip code and state with the aquatic life in their shopping basket. If a restricted plant, fish, or invertebrate resides in the shopping basket, we alert the customer of the situation with a pop-up message and explain we are unable to ship the item(s) in question to your state, and they must be removed to complete the checkout process. If the restricted item is not removed the checkout process cannot be completed.”
Kohen went on to emphasize the ongoing efforts that LiveAquaria.com has in place to educate their customers.
“Drs. Foster and Smith LiveAquaria.com is a Habitattitude partner. We strive to educate and create awareness in our hobby about the importance of being responsible aquarium and pond owners. It’s our responsibility to try and convey to our customers and the hobby community what threats and negative impacts are associated with invasive species, and what options are at everyone’s disposal to rehome fish or properly dispose of unwanted aquarium and pond plants. We provide detailed information on our web site to help increase awareness and educate consumers.”
Kohen notes that the linked web article is undergoing some updates at this time. Additionally, LiveAquaria shipments include a “Do not Release” Flyer in every single order shipped.
Kohen’s high-level position in the aquarium trade gives him insight that the average home aquarist isn’t privy to. He leaves us with potentially concerning words, coming from a man who ought to know.
“Our hobby faces some real challenges right now,” said Kohen, “and to me, the Lionfish initiative opens the door to other genera and species of marine life, which will negatively impact our ability to own, learn from, and responsibly enjoy our aquariums and ponds. Drs. Foster and Smith is a member of PIJAC, and we really need to rally the hobby community, retailers, manufacturers, importers, and anyone involved in this hobby to support PIJAC though making a donation to the Marine Ornamentals Defense Fund.”
updated 7/31/2014 to add image of DFS “Do Not Release” flyer