Why has the USFWS not taken action on chytrid fungus?

From Peter Jenkins, Executive Director of the Center for Invasive Species Protection and formerly from Defenders of Wildlife, who 4 years ago co-authored this petition to the USFWS regarding amphibians and the chytrid fungus:

Four years after filing the Defenders Bd Petition, it is disappointing to hear that the science has become more compelling, yet the Service has not taken any formal action whatsoever on the Petition besides a long-ago Notice of Inquiry that it has not responded further on.

The Service indicated that granting the Petition (in some manner) “could help” and that more virulent Bd strains may come in on imported frogs absent further measures. Kolby’s talk confirmed what was known before – major imports of infected frogs continues to occur.

Yet the Service describes the Petition as if it seeks testing for each shipment of amphibians. That is not the case. The Petition seeks that each shipment be certified consistent with OIE Bd prevention guidelines. Those OIE guidelines, described in the Petition, do not mandate testing of each shipment. There are many other ways that shipments can be accompanied by a certification that they meet “Bd-free” standards to reduce the risk. The USFWS need not follow the OIE recommendations exactly and can and should be creative and more tailored in its approach, responding to the issues in the public comments and to the new science. The new approach need not reduce 100% of all risk, it can be effective if it tackles some of the riskiest problems.

It is just repeating pet industry lines to say that it means “declaring all amphibians as injurious”. No, it means only declaring the shipments that don’t satisfy the certification requirement as injurious. Those that do are not injurious. It’s too bad we don’t have a better wild animal health protection statute to work with, but the Lacey Act has been used exactly in this way before. There are something like 600 salmonid species in the world that are subject to the salmonid disease Lacey standard.. Obviously people don’t go around saying all of them are “injurious” so I can’t understand why the Service would repeat the line that somehow the proposal in the Petition would classify all amphibians as injurious.

The Service needs to amend its Lacey Act amphibian import regulation in some positive way as right now it basically says all amphibians can be imported with no restrictions. That is unacceptable.

A response from SAVE THE FROGS! Founder Dr. Kerry Kriger:
“I do agree with with Peter that the USFWS has a responsibility to protect amphibians from the chytrid fungus, and that its 4 year delay with no apparent resolution equates to a USFWS failure to uphold its duty. The science is exceedingly clear that chytrid fungus is problematic for amphibians. Even if a USFWS listing were eventually to get appealed or rejected, at a minimum it sends a clear signal that the government of the USA acknowledges the problem and deems it worthy of significant attention. Otherwise the Service appears essentially powerless to reduce importation of harmful animals. If there is some specific information that USFWS seeks, please let me know. As with most aspects of amphibian conservation, I think we have all the information we need. Now all we need to do is act on the information and reduce the threats to frogs.
Thanks, Kerry”

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