Re: NANFA-- biological bombs detonating everywhere

Christopher Scharpf (
Thu, 03 Aug 2000 09:26:10 -0400

>Basically here are my issues; First, in California, you are not allowed to
>keep native fishes in a home aquarium, yet the DNR (not to point fingers)
>and others routinely stock Bass and Bluegills and other fish that are not
>native to that state.

There's a reason for that: Dollars. Recreational fishing brings in millions
(billions?) of dollars in California. Entire businesses and livelihoods rely on
it. Native fishkeeping is a tiny pursuit, and is economically insignificant.
Therefore, there is no financial pressure to change the laws re: native

>Second, in that same state you can trot on down to
>the LFS and purchase any one of several dozen exotic
>species that will survive in the local pond or stream
>if let loose.

Once again, tropical fishkeeping is a huge industry. It even has a trade
association! If California (or any other state, for that matter) were to outlaw
the tropical fish hobby, there would be a ruckus.

It's the Golden Rule. He who has the gold, rules.

By comparison, there is only a relative handful of native fish keepers in the
country. We don't bring in much economically. Therefore we have no political
clout. Several months back, various members from NANFA met with lawyers and
officials of one state re: their collecting laws. The officials listened. They
nodded their heads. They said, basically, we're not going to change anything.
Why? Because it's too much work to change a law when that change will have
little or no economic, social, or political impact.

> Last, in most states, you cannot buy a Bluegill in an LFS. Why?
> Bluegills have been stocked in every state in the union.
> If they are going to be invasive and cause a problem,
> it's too late to stop them now.

Do you know for a fact that threat of spreading is the reason bluegills not sold
in LFSs? Do you have documentation? I'd love to see it. I'm not challenging you.
I would just like proof that that's the real reason bluegill's (and other native
Amercian fishes) aren't availabe at the LFS.

I suspect a different reason:

Bluegills -- as with many other natives -- don;t have the appeal of "exotic"
(and therefore more desirable) fishes. Most fish keepers (who are not hobbyists,
to borrow J.R.'s excellent distinction), want something "exotic" and "fancy" and
from a faraway place. A bluegill? Heck, I can catch them with my kid down at the
pond. They're for the pan, not the aquarium. What would I want with a plain ol'

(Another reason natives aren't commonly sold -- even the most colorful ones --
is temperature. Many natives, especially darters and minnows, can't stand the 80
degree temps at which most fish keepers keep their fish, and at which most fish
merchants keep their stores.)

>is it ok for the DNR to dump Bluegills in every pond in the state, but it's
>a crime for my LFS to sell them?

Is it a crime? Can you show me the law? I'm sure it is a crime in many if not
most states. I would love to see the actual written code prohibiting it. I bet
it was written 30-100 years ago under the dictates of Fish & Game agencies,
commercial fish hatcheries, and sport fish lobby groups, who saw bluegills and
other gamefishes as commercial entities that needed regulation to protect
economic interests. Back when these laws were written, no one had an inkling
that somebody might want to keep them in an aquarium.

Also back then, DNRs didn't care about fish. They cared about fisheries! This,
however, is beginning to change. DNRs are shifting their ideologies to nongame
and ecosystem management (which many anglers, fishing magazines, and sport fish
lobby groups are complaining bitterly about). Gamefishes are still being
stocked, but usually only into water bodies that have been significantly and
irreversibly altered by man (e.g., reservoirs). Plus, I don't think bluegills
are being stocked much anymore, unless it's in fishing ponds for kids. They've
spread. They're established. They don't need any more help.

>Here's what I want. Sensible laws. I know....that's asking for a lot. I
>want to see laws that promote the easy keeping of native fishes and or
>fishes that cannot become invasive and make it difficult to keep fish that
>can become invasive.

The trouble with this is, all fish can become invasive. Although the news story
that prompted this thread focused on foreign invaders, a lot of the biological
pollution in this country has been caused by native fishes being introduced
outside their natural ranges. Look at the Colorado River basin. Yes, it's been
devastated by dams. But the natives that have managed to survive in reaches
unaffected by impoundments are being done in by "native" fishes -- bass, channel
catfish, and red shiners.

In fact, the red shiner -- one of the most beautiful native minnows, and often
available in LFSs -- is one of the most dangerous fishes in America! It has been
implicated in the decline of pikeminnow, woundfin, and other Colorado River
basin natives. How? By spreading Asian tapeworm and outcompeting pikeminnow fry
for food.

>Additionally I would like to see laws that ensure that
>fish are treated humanely. If you want a Pacu, get a permit, prove you have
>a 1000 gallon tank and you can care for the fish.

Unfortunately, such laws would create more government and cost millions to
enforce. The easiest and most effective thing to do would be to prohibit the
sale of certain large tropicals. I would not have a problem with this.

>I'm sick of idiots causing problems for responsible pet owners and the
> environment. Pet ownership is a privilege and not a right.

The problems run deeper than idiot pet owners, unforunately. Essentially, it all
comes down to values. What does one value more? Short-term economic gain and
comfort? Or long-term ecosystem integrity? As long as it's man calling the
shots, it will always be the former.

Chris Scharpf

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