May 8, 2001 RIDNIS Workshop Summary

Note: This summary is for informational purposes only. Please do not distribute without printing the complete summary.

*RIDNIS Workshop 2 Summary
*Reducing the Introduction and Damage of Aquatic Nonindigenous Species through Outreach and Education

Ted Grosholz, Project Director
Erin Williams, Outreach Coordinator
Department of Environmental Science and Policy
One Shields Avenue
UC Davis
Davis, California 95616

May 8, 2001 in San Mateo, California

Ted Grosholz, RIDNIS Project Director and UC Cooperative Extension Specialist, opened the workshop with a general introduction to the issue of non-native aquatic species and an overview of the RIDNIS project goals. He discussed the meeting agenda as well as the anticipated goals. He emphasized that making progress on non-ballast vectors of introduction will require progress in three areas: 1) educating the consumer public about the problem of introduced species and stressing that individual consumers play a critical role in limiting the spread of aquatic nonindigenous species (NIS), 2) educating industries about the NIS problem and the need for industry to develop appropriate standard practices and codes of behavior for dispensing, dispersing and disposing of non-native species, and 3) having NIS and related industries participate in educating their own consumer base by educating their own staff, who will, in turn, emphasize appropriate behaviors and practices to customers that will limit the spread of NIS.

Dr. Tim Hovanec, Chief Science Officer, The Aquaria Group, and President, Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), discussed pathways of animal supply, transport of aquarium organisms, and the awareness of the invasive species issue in the aquarium industry. He concluded that awareness was high for bird, reptile and ferret sellers, medium for fish, and for retailers and wholesalers is dependent on the animal and region. He also mentioned several methods used by PIJAC to inform their members of issues, such as PetAlerts, PetLetters, education programs, trade meetings, store handouts, posters, the internet, and trade shows that PIJAC attends. Dr. Hovanec feels that the invasive species message must be simple, using common terms, and not providing too many details that would clutter the message. In terms of public outreach, he recommends articulating the issue, the risks and how to minimize these risks, as well as providing user-friendly identification aids. Industry concerns of the non-native species issue are 1) the false perception of industry as a major source of the problem; 2) perceived as an easy target; and 3) introduction does not automatically mean invasive and/or bad. With regard to voluntary codes of practice, he felt most of their members would agree to such guidelines stating that these would be good for business, since customers want to feel good about their purchases. He closed by emphasizing again that as a group, we must strive for a simple, but uniform message for the public.

Guy Oei, Owner, Albany Aquarium spoke about the increasing popularity of plant-only aquariums in the region. His store is one of few in the area that buys a wide range of plants for this purpose. His store, and now northern California, is being refused shipments from the largest U.S. supplier because shipments have been rejected several times. Mr. Oei does not know why the shipments have been refused and has never been notified by the state as to the shipment refusal. His orders have not arrived and after contacting the supplier, learned of the refusal. He was unsuccessful in reaching the inspectors responsible for delaying the shipment. He stated that storeowners generally are unable to contact the appropriate customs inspectors. He also complained that federal guidelines regarding NIS shipments differ from state guidelines. A discussion of gaps in the notification process of shipment refusals was held after his presentation.
Mr. Oei said that many hobbyists want plants that are difficult to grow so they likely are not contributing to the NIS problem by introducing these plants into the wild. He thinks that even if these plants found their way into the wild, since they require special care and often die in aquariums, they would likely die immediately if released into the wild. His customers are not given information about proper disposal of unwanted plants; they are only given information on how to keep the plants alive. Mr. Oei's store does not carry anything on the banned list and tells people why he can't sell it if it is requested. The difference between a general home aquarium consumer and an aquarium hobbyist was discussed. He pointed out that the fishes and plants people return to stores are the ones doing well and getting too big, indicating that these might be the kinds of species that would most likely be "unwanted" and potentially released to the environment.

Carmen Carrouche-Rivers, member of SEABay, an aquarium hobbyist group and involved in aquaculture of marine organisms, discussed the fact that the average length of time a home aquarist is in the hobby is about 1 year. Some people in aquarium hobbyist groups, for instance owners of cichlid fishes, which have been devastated by introduced predators, are aware of the non-native species issue, while others such as Koi owners are less informed. Again, she emphasized large fish are a big problem, since they outgrow their tanks, often can't be returned, and may pose pathogen problems if released. Based on some informal surveys she made of aquarium stores in urban areas, she believed that larger and more aggressive fish tended to be more sold more commonly in economically depressed areas. Most novice aquarists rely heavily on the information received from the store and don't seek extra information regarding pet care until they are more established in the hobbyist arena. Most hobbyist groups already relay information to pet store customers, so there is definitely a role that groups can play in communicating more specific, non-native species information to customers and other hobbyists. Most stores will take pets back for credit or to sell on consignment, so Ms. Carrouche-Rivers thinks that most experienced and dedicated hobbyists would not release a fish into the wild, because they want store credit to buy something else.

Dan Strazzullo, President, All Shores Seafood, discussed changes in fishing off the California coast, his live seafood business, and regulation requirements of his business. Twenty years ago, 90% of live seafood was caught off California, now today it is about 10%. This change is primarily due to transportation changes. There has also been an increase in the demand for ethnic foods due to the diverse population in California. Mr. Strazzullo mostly sells his live mussels and clams to wholesalers, but there are many live seafood retailers in the business that get items directly from boats. He sees growth in the number and kinds of products now sold by retailers. His company, and by implication other companies as well, assumes that "if its legal, its OK", and that there is nothing further to be concerned about.
Mr. Strazzullo is concerned about current regulations and not knowing who is in charge of enforcement. Mr. Strazzullo has had to track down information himself when shipments have been refused. He believes the regulators know very little about what they are regulating. He also believes he can't inform customers if he doesn't know about this type of information (invasive species) and thinks it is up to the government to inform his industry. If he had educational materials regarding invasive species, which he would like to be available, he would pass them on to his customers. He had one customer that bought an Atlantic lobster every week with the stated purpose of returning it to the wild (SF Bay) so it would not be eaten. Regarding industry participation in a "green labeling" program, where industries might label their products indicating that they are an NIS-free company, Mr. Strazzullo was hesitant because of his desire to avoid any further obligations of any kind that might require additional paperwork. His company is already overloaded on paperwork, especially from the HACCP program. If new regulations are proposed, he said industries should be consulted before passing them.
A discussion of cultural practices versus environment protection followed Mr. Strazzullo's presentation. Some attendees felt that given the diverse population in the Bay-Delta area, it is difficult to impose regulations on people who are just trying to maintain cultural practices by obtaining seafood or other items that are not native to this area. Many of these people are not aware of the potential environmental problems of these practices and so education, especially translating educational items into other languages, would be very useful.

John Finger, Owner, Hog Island Oyster Company, discussed the history of the west coast shellfish industry. The industry is based on non-native species and the industry has introduced most of its own pests and pathogens. They are heavily impacted by invasives including those that have been introduced by other pathways. Aquaculture is heavily regulated and inspected to ensure "disease-free" stock is being used. He mentioned huge delays in getting permits to ship broodstock and related obstacles for his industry.
Mr. Finger thinks there is a high awareness of the invasive species issue at most aquaculture companies. There is not much effort in educating consumers, which is likely due to the 100+ year history of introduction of their products. But the industry still needs to be concerned about new non-native species, so education of consumers about proper transport and disposal should increase within the industry. Mr. Finger recounted situations where customers may contribute to pathogen introductions. For instance, a prohibition on the movement of shellfish from bays infected with certain pathogens to other bays restricts his business. However, he cited examples of customers who purchase shellfish from restricted areas and then hang the live shellfish from docks in unrestricted areas, so consumers end up doing what his company is prohibited from doing. Mr. Finger stated that these kinds of practices are not regulated, even when it is known to local enforcement agents, thus pointing out the potential need to educate the enforcement agencies.
The industry is very concerned about organisms coming in from New Zealand and Tasmania (likely illegally) that would affect their stocks. Mr. Finger's biggest concerns are ballast water introductions and live bait sales. Mr. Finger believes that education is key because legislation doesn't really work on a day-to-day basis. This industry needs point of sale information concerning non-release of invasives for consumers. West coast codes of practice in the shellfish industry are in development, which he felt would substantially address NIS concerns.

David Jung, General Counsel, Frank's Trading Company Inc., discussed their business relations with China and Japan. Mr. Jung was asked about 2 years ago to look into obtaining a permit to harvest mitten crabs in the San Francisco Bay-Delta. Two arguments from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service against his request are: 1) we don't know enough about the crab to allow it; 2) we do not want to send the wrong message that illegal introductions are okay by allowing a fishery for mitten crabs.
There are now several factors that have led to his company to stop pursuing commercial permits for mitten crabs. Last year prices of mitten crab overseas dropped due to a variety of factors. His colleague, Blake Juntz, tried to establish a mitten crab fishery in Germany, which would have been commercially viable, had the price per crab not dropped. Mr. Jung then responded to a number of questions that had been posed to him before the session.

Q. What is the level of awareness of the introduced species issue within the Asian seafood industry? A. How much do I need to know to sell it or buy it?

Q. How active is the black market in mitten crabs and how does it work? A. The black market has been around a long time in San Francisco. Restaurants call fishermen to see if they have anything and vice versa. He mentioned that there were restaurants in the East and South Bay that would sell mitten crabs for parties or events given sufficient notice. Hook and line has been the most active method of catching the crabs. The market is seasonal for mitten crabs corresponding to their population levels (late September to November or so). Most market items are transported via truck or van. Given the mobility of the market, it is unlikely to find the people involved in this market.

Q. Do you think a commercial fishery for mitten crabs would eliminate the black market?
Probably just a numbers game - will still have a black market because they can get it cheaper to the customer. He concluded that a commercial market would not likely extinguish the black market.

A comment after Mr. Jung's presentation: given the restaurant involvement, if we really want to enforce existing regulations, we need to go to the end source (the restaurants) and cite them for possession of illegal seafood.


Open Panel Q & A Session: Much of the open discussion dealt with the burdens currently shouldered by industry. The permitting process for selling live products is an onerous one and has left many feeling like they couldn't contend with any further forms. One seller mentioned that he sells 25-50 different products per year and that he is required to file a separate form for every species/product and for every state that he sells those products (so 50 products times the number of states). There was further discussion about the merits of green labeling and whether that would add value to the product. There was a feeling that yes, this would be a good avenue to investigate, but that this wouldn't work for all products. One member of the seafood industry mentioned that it was difficult to get something like this discussed and voted on at industry meetings. Industry meetings are often attended by only the wealthier industry members and not necessarily a cross-section of the industry. Lastly, there was a feeling that even if there was broad-scale participation in some kinds of industry codes of practice, there would still be a few who would not follow along. There was also a feeling that there were larger issues that didn't receive adequate enforcement, so issues such as NIS were certainly less of a priority. The idea of a set of industry practices or codes of conduct was not a problem, although how to get this implemented seemed uncertain, as did verifying the level of participation (again the paperwork issue).


*Two breakout groups were held in the afternoon to discuss proposed legislation and control efforts of invasive species as well as codes of conduct in the various industries. A summary of each discussion is listed below.

Group 1: Proposed Legislation and Control and Screening Efforts

What proposals are currently in progress or pending consideration? What are the concerns regarding new legislation and the potential for future legislation? The discovery of the marine alga Caulerpa taxifolia in Southern California prompted the introduction of AB 1334, a proposal to ban possession and sale statewide of the genus Caulerpa. Industry supports the ban of C. taxifolia and look-alikes, but not a genus-wide ban. Industry is concerned not only about the loss of non-invasive Caulerpa species, because of the proposed ban, but are also concerned about similar genus-wide bans of problematic species in the future. Many people stated in the group that they thought a more comprehensive national list of banned species would be appropriate because each state cannot keep track of the other state regulations.

Are there better alternatives to regulation? Education as well as enforcement at the origin and the end-user; check for pure/clean shipments at the origin to reduce risk. Can existing laws such as Fish and Game Code be enforced to include NIS items rather than create new laws?

How can we measure costs/impacts on industry of legislation? One method is to measure loss of sales of a banned species. Industry needs to unify voice especially at the local level (Caulerpa bill example). But a discussion of impacts and costs of regulations needs to be held before passed at the state level. Stakeholder input: Surveys being conducted by CDFA on Q-list plants to ensure that these plants should be on the restricted list. Comprehensive identification lists from industry and labeling of shipments are needed.

How can we measure costs of lack of regulation? Direct clean-up costs as well as valuing ecosystem services; since this is controversial and can be difficult to quantify, use worst-case scenario.

How can we measure effectiveness or compliance of regulations? We can't really; enforcement is always a major problem. Many laws exist that could address the invasive species issue, but they aren't being enforced adequately.

How can laws effectively address the black market trade? Need more information but for now, go to the end user (restaurants) to enforce.

Internet Sales: County agriculture departments inspect many mail-order items, but a lot of illegal items pass through this route. This industry needs to be regulated and have increased inspection as soon as possible.
Are there alternatives to enforcement? Yes, education would be very appropriate and effective for aquaria, aquaculture and live seafood industries.

Other comments: People are likely dumping aquaria fish into the wild and their plants get discarded in the process; not dumping plants just to dispose of them. California Agriculture should inform other states of California regulations so shipments aren't sent rather than refused once they arrive here.

Group 2: Codes of Conduct, Certification, Industry and Public Education

What are the current codes or practices observed by industry regarding invasives? Europe has OATA standards and U.S. wholesalers have MAC standards for collection/certification of reef organisms in development. There are pieces missing from the MAC draft standards such as employee training, public education, and hygiene codes. The development of the codes in the U.S. needs broader input. Other industries have no such standards yet developed. HACCP was discussed as a potential model for developing some standards in the future.

What obstacles exist to adopting voluntary codes of conduct? Over-regulation; some industry members (some cultural segments) are unwilling or afraid to participate.

What incentives can be used to encourage recognition/cooperation with codes or green labeling? Green labeling is on the horizon for trade groups starting at the wholesale level, but profits are mostly at the retail level only so would have to create "hype" to promote; enforce existing regulations and levy fines allowed under codes.

What information is given to the public when they purchase live plants, seafood, or aquarium animals? No information is provided to public regarding live plants, seafood, or aquarium animals, except Tropical Fish brochures in Florida.

What information is given to employees pertaining to handling, risks of release, etc.? Employee information or training is company specific. Petco, a nationwide chain does provide information and training. Some stores will take pets back (like Petco) and follow standards of conduct specific to that company. Some stores also track pet returns.

How can industry measure the awareness of its employees? Employee handling has little risk of release.

One suggestion from a group member to get the "no dumping" message out is through the Home and Garden cable network. Another suggestion is to watch language used in discussing this topic - "exotics" means what? It was suggested to use "pets" instead.


The RIDNIS project is funded by the CALFED Bay-Delta Program.

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*RIDNIS Project Workshop 2 Summary Page, September 2000 - September 2002
(*Reducing the Introduction and Damage of Nonindigenous Species through Outreach & Education)
University of California Cooperative Extension, Department of Environmental Science and Policy
This project is funded by the CALFED Bay-Delta program in cooperation with the University of California Cooperative Extension.