In March of 2010, in a move to protect the state’s natural resources, The California State Fish & Game Commission voted unanimously to direct the California Department of F&G to cease issuing permits for the importation of live frogs and turtles for human consumption, the culmination of a 15-year struggle. The Commission received nearly 4,000 letters supporting the ban, from conservation and sporting organizations and the general public. Former Resources Secretary Huey Johnson wrote twice.
Two months later, pressured by Chinatown market interests and a half-dozen legislators playing “the race card,” two Commission members, Jim Kellogg and Don Benninghoven (since departed), attempted unsuccessfully to reverse the new policy. To their credit, Commissioners Mike Sutton, Richard Rogers and Dan Richards held firm. Then, in September, DFG Director John McCamman announced that the Department would continue to issue the permits on a month-to-month basis. When challenged by an irate Commissioner Dan Richards, Deputy Director Sonke Mastrup could only mutter, “The Director acts at the pleasure of the Governor.” So much for the democratic process … .
California annually imports some two MILLION American bullfrogs and an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 freshwater turtles for the live markets. The frogs are commercially-raised in Taiwan. The turtles are taken from the wild in states east of the Rockies, depleting local populations. All are diseased and/or parasitized (though it is illegal to sell such products for human consumption). Worse, when released into the wild, these exotics prey upon and displace our native wildlife. According to one 2010 study, 62% of the market frogs necropsied tested positive for the chytrid fungus, which has caused the extinction of some 200 species of amphibians worldwide in the past 15 years.
The mandate of both the Commission and the Department is to protect and enhance California’s natural resources. On this issue, they are doing neither. In many states (Arizona, Washington, Oregon, etc.), the Commission has the power to hire and fire the Director of the Department of Fish & Game. Not so in California, and our wildlife suffers accordingly. Time for a change.
Hopefully, incoming Governor Jerry Brown will take this matter more seriously than have Governor Schwarzenegger and his appointees. If not, legislation is in order.
Eric Mills, coordinator, ACTION FOR ANIMALS, P.O. Box 20184, Oakland, CA 94620; 510-652-5603; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I know you’ve been fighting this battle for years and it has been a difficult struggle. Think positive, my friend. It’s the beginning of a new year, and we — you — are closer to resolving this mess than ever before. The sale of these imported reptiles and amphibians must stop. Hopefully, this is the year it will finally end. Even more hopefully, I hope our native reptiles and amphibians will be able to recover from years of accumulated damage. /Gary