CALIFORNIA UPHOLDS BAN ON THE IMPORTATION OF NON-NATIVE FROGS AND TURTLES
Measure will reduce the number of invasive species and infectious diseases harming native wildlife
Santa Cruz, CA - 20-May-2010. The California Fish & Game Commission yesterday voted 3-2 to uphold their recently instated ban on the importation of non-native frogs & turtles for use as food. The ban, intended to reduce the influx of harmful invasive species into the state, drew significant criticism from San Francisco’s Chinese community, one of the United States’ largest consumers of frog legs and turtles. This in turn prompted yesterday’s re-consideration hearing in a Sacramento room that was filled to capacity with legislators, businessmen, nonprofit representatives and other members of the public eager to speak their view on the matter.
Frog populations worldwide have been declining at unprecedented rates, and nearly one-third of the world's amphibian species are threatened with extinction. Up to 200 amphibian species have completely disappeared in recent years and California is home to 16 threatened amphibian species. The frog leg trade is responsible for the spread of infectious diseases and invasive species that damage California’s ecosystems, according to Santa Cruz-based public charity SAVE THE FROGS! (www.savethefrogs.com), who led the campaign to maintain the Fish & Game Commission’s April 8th ban. The group’s supporters sent nearly 1,200 letters to the Department of Fish & Game this week.
SAVE THE FROGS! Founder Dr. Kerry Kriger testified at yesterday’s hearing, highlighting the spread of infectious disease and invasive species that inevitably accompany the frog legs trade. “Several million American Bullfrogs farmed overseas are imported into California for food each year. A recent study showed that over 60% of these frogs are infected with a deadly chytrid fungus that has decimated frog populations in the Sierra Nevada range.” The fungus, which causes a potentially lethal skin disease called chytridiomycosis, has caused the extinction of up to 100 amphibian species worldwide. Furthermore, says Dr. Kriger “bullfrogs and turtles regularly escape or are purposely set free into the wild. They establish populations and damage local ecosystems by eating native frogs and other wildlife.”
San Francisco-based legislators Leland Yee, Fiona Ma and Ted Lieu testified in opposition to the ban, stating that it would damage the economy and that it discriminated against the Chinese community and their 5,000 year old history of eating frogs and turtles. However, the vast majority of frogs the Chinese-American community is eating are American Bullfrogs, which have only a very recent history in Chinese cuisine.
“Cultures necessarily evolve: if they did not, we would have long since eaten the buffalo and the California Red-Legged Frog to complete extinction, as we did the passenger pigeons”, said Dr. Kriger. “As Americans, we are fortunate to have many choices of food, and thus it is our responsibility to act wisely and ensure that our culinary decisions are not unduly impacting our natural heritage and the future of our planet.”
Americans consume 20% of the world’s frog legs, and scientists estimate that over a hundred million frogs are taken out of the wild each year for food. SAVE THE FROGS! last month convinced San Francisco’s upscale Restaurant Gary Danko to remove the frog legs from the restaurant’s menu. The group, which organizes the annual Save The Frogs Day events, recently held the world’s first protests in defense of frog populations – at four east coast restaurants that refuse to stop serving frog legs.
More information on the frog leg trade can and on the ban can be found at:
Kerry Kriger, Ph.D.
SAVE THE FROGS! Founder, Executive Director and Ecologist
Phone: (831) 621-6215
About SAVE THE FROGS!
SAVE THE FROGS! (http://www.savethefrogs.com) is America’s first and only public charity dedicated to amphibian conservation. Based in Santa Cruz, CA, the mission of SAVE THE FROGS! is to protect amphibian populations and to promote a society that respects and appreciates nature and wildlife.