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Live Animal Food Markets: Stop sale of illegal frogs, turtles

By Gary Bogue
Monday, March 29th, 2010 at 7:23 am in Action for Animals, Frogs, Live Animal Markets, Turtles.

Florida softshell turtle. Photo by Flickr user John Picken used under a Creative Commons License.
softshell, florida, john picken

My friend Eric Mills, coordinator of Action For Animals in , Calif., sent the following letter to the Director of Calif. Department of Fish & Game, and to the Calif. Fish & Game Commission. It pertains to the Live Animal Food Markets in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond throughout the state. Many illegal creatures are presently being sold in these markets and Eric has been fighting the good fight for years, trying to stop this travesty.

He’s getting close (GO ERIC!) … the Commission just voted to issue NO future important permits for these frogs and turtles for the live markets. Unfortunately, this still allows current sales to continue for up to a year. What they need to do now is to BAN the current sales of these animals. /Gary

Eric’s letter, written March 24, 2010:
John McCamman, Director
DEPARTMENT OF FISH & GAME

John Carlson, Exec. Director, and Members
FISH & GAME COMMISSION

Gentlemen:
Over the years I’ve been making weekly visits to the live animal markets in both Oakland and San Francisco to see whether or not state laws and codes are being enforced.  In a word, they are not.

Florida softshell turtle. Photo by Flickr user alex_lee2001 used under a Creative Commons License.
softshell2, florida, alex_lee2001

Yesterday (March 23) in Oakland’s Yet Sun Market (397 8th Street @ Franklin), I found some 25 Florida softshell turtles being sold for human consumption ($8.99/pound).  As you know, only two turtle species are permitted for sale in the markets:  the red-eared slider and the spiny softshell.

At this same market on February 2, 2010, I found six Florida softshells; and again, on March 1, four of this same non-permitted species.  God only knows how many are stored in the backroom or basement.  I’ve also seen non-permitted smooth softshell turtles on a number of occasions.

Compounding the problem is the fact that only last year the State of Florida banned the commercial take of ALL freshwater turtles, and yet we’re still seeing these Florida turtles in California.  Laws are being violated at both ends of the chain, and it’s “business as usual.”  We can/must do better.

I’ve duly reported all these violations to CalTIP.  I have also spoken to a couple of our beleaguered wardens, who tell me that they are not set up to confiscate any of the illicit animals.  So what do they do?  A citation, at best, which is generally ignored by the D.A.’s office, which has other priorities.

PARTIAL SOLUTION:  I just spoke with Megan Webb, director of Oakland Animal Control, who has agreed to take any confiscated market turtles in Oakland, and either find homes for them, or euthanize as necessary.  (And most likely it would be the latter, for all these animals are in bad shape,  diseased and/or parasitized.)  In light of the miserable conditions in which these pathetic animals are kept, I’m convinced that euthanasia would be a blessing.  This would also cause the violators some financial hardship, which might help improve things, too.

I posed this same question to the Sacramento SPCA (Rick Johnson, director); San Francisco Animal Control (Officer Vicky Gulbeck); and Los Angeles SPCA (Madeline Bernstein, President).  I’m expecting positive responses in the near future, and will alert you accordingly.  The wardens should appreciate this back-up, since the Department is either unwilling or unable to provide it, no?

As you know, the Commission voted unanimously at the 3/3/10 Ontario meeting to issue no future import permits for frogs and turtles for the live markets.  Progress, assuredly.  But this unfortunately allows current sales to continue for up to a year.  WHAT IS NEEDED IS AN IMMEDIATE BAN ON THE CURRENT SALES OF THESE ANIMALS.

And I understand that the Director of Fish & Game has the authority to impose such a ban now.  If such is the case, I would strongly urge you to do so as soon as possible.  Again, this remains a serious resource protection issue.  Live animals are still being sold over the counter, in violation of state law.

I would appreciate an answer to this question at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,
Eric Mills, coordinator, ACTION FOR ANIMALS, P.O. Box 20184, Oakland, CA  94620

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4 Responses to “Live Animal Food Markets: Stop sale of illegal frogs, turtles”

  1. Auntie Says:

    This is off subject but I thought you were going to have a live feed of the geese hatching on the roof of the CC Times? I can’t find it anywhere and if I am not mistaken, they should have hatched last week

  2. Barbara Says:

    Note to Auntie: There still is a live feed as the eggs have yet to hatch. I can’t provide the link, but if you scroll down to “Mother Goose” to the right of the Web page, it’s accessible from there.

    (I keep it on while at work.)

  3. Eric Mills Says:

    Dear Gary -

    Thanks for printing my letter re the live animal food market problems. We really do need an immediate ban on the sale of these non-native frogs and turtles for a variety of reasons.

    Should any of your readers wish to write, here’s contact info for the Department and the Commission:

    John McCamman, Director
    DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME
    1416 Ninth Street
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    e-mail – director@dfg.ca.gov

    John Carlson, Exec. Director
    and members
    STATE FISH & GAME COMMISSION
    1416 Ninth Street
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    e-mail – fgc@fgc.ca.gov

    The F&G Commission meets on April 7-8 in Monterey. Both the frog/turtle issue and the proposed bear hunting regulations are on the Thursday agenda. Anyone wishing info may contact me at 510/652-5603; e-mail – afa@mcn.org.

    Thanks for all that you do for the animals, Gary, both wild and domestic. You Da Man!

    Sincerely,
    Eric Mills, coordinator
    ACTION FOR ANIMALS
    Oakland

  4. RAIN Says:

    9/2010 Softshelled turtles (species ???) are being sold for food in Chinese markets in the L.A. area. I was upset when I heard about this. I can’t believe that this is legal, or if not, is not being monitored and fined. ??? Is there a local ‘Action for Animals’ or similar organization here? Thanks Rain

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