Washington, DC — US lawmakers called for a stop to the importation of exotic pets into the United States on Tuesday, as the nation’s pet fish population plunged to its lowest level since 2006.
The Pet Fish Protection Act, introduced by New York Democrat Peter Doocy, is one of the strongest protections in the country for exotic pets and is expected to pass Congress this week.
In a statement, Doocy said the import ban would ensure that American citizens and businesses can continue to import exotic pets.
The bill, he said, is a step toward protecting pet fish from extinction, as well as protecting wildlife from threats like overgrazing, habitat loss, and disease.
“I am pleased that Congress has passed this important bill that protects the pets of the American people,” Doocy added.
“Unfortunately, I fear that this bill is just one more step toward the extinction of American pets.”
The legislation, which was first introduced in 2016, requires the Department of Agriculture to set up a system for the export of exotic pet species and ensures that those caught in the process are held accountable.
The bill is a major step toward halting the pet fish trade, which has reached a record high of 2.3 million fish in 2018.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, there were 434,000 pet fish imported into the US in 2017, the highest annual figure since 2006, with more than 20,000 species lost or captured, including the endangered black carp.
It also would protect endangered species like the blue catfish from extinction.
The species is threatened by overfishing, habitat degradation, and overfilling of aquaculture ponds, which can harm the aquatic life.