Restricted animals in the aquarium trade

sirdarksol

Some recent questions/comments about shipping apple snails has caused a number of members to think about the nature of restricted animals (in particular, apple snails).
We just added another rule to the B/S/T section, basically stating that it's your responsibility to know local laws regarding shipping/receiving any animals you are selling/buying. This is really just a technicality on our part, as it is always your responsibility to know such things when making such transactions.
However, I wanted to go into it a little bit more here, as we don't want people to be left hanging.

The simple explanation is as follows:
If you are selling something, it's a good idea to check the laws for the country, your state, and for the recipient's state, to make sure that you will not run into any legal issues. If you are buying something, you should know at least the country's laws and your state laws to make sure that neither you nor the seller will get into trouble.

To touch specifically on snails:
Most Ampullaridae snails (which covers many of the snails in the aquarium trade) are considered either potentially invasive or carriers of potentially harmful diseases, and therefore cannot be shipped into the country or across state lines without an import permit. Only pomacea bridgesii (mystery snail) may be shipped without restriction. If caught shipping these animals, the mildest response you can expect is to have the snails shipped back to you. The animals could be destroyed, and it is possible that you could be found guilty of a federal crime.

The information that I found at the USDA (snails are restricted as agricultural pests and as food products that have been known to carry nasty diseases that can infect humans, thus, the USDA is the primary organization dealing with their restriction) suggests that only a few groups of snails are restricted, however, in a few places, the wording suggests that any snails or slugs are illegal to transport without a permit. I would strongly suggest that anyone wanting to ship snails find this out prior to shipping.

Lastly, here's a link to the USDA website.


Edit: I have e-mailed the USDA regarding apple snails, mystery snails, Malaysian trumpet snails, pond snails, and assassin snails, just so we can have confirmation on all of the most common freshwater aquarium snails.
 

crazedACD

Thanks, good info. My only problem with this, is that it is so hard to find a list of illegal animals and fish [in my state, at least]. I had to skI'm through many, many pages to find a partial list of restricted fish. And even then, it was only a list of a few things specific to MA.. I'm 99% sure apple snails are restricted here, they were not on the list, nor were asian aros or snakeheads. I guess I could just call but wouldn't it be easier to have a list in easy access?
 

sirdarksol

It may be that Asian arowana and snakeheads are illegal across the US, so your state government won't have them listed. I know that snakeheads are illegal in MA, as you've had some pretty nasty run-ins with them in the past.

The problem here is that each state has different restrictions (which is sometimes a good thing; no reason to restrict iguana in northern states, as it can't become invasive; and sometimes a bad thing; if an animal is restricted in one state, but not in its neighbor, a released animal may easily cross the border and create problems in the state that restricted it), and that there are numerous organizations and legal bodies creating the restrictions. In this case, you're looking at the USDA (nationally) that restricts certain animals due to foodborne illness and/or ability to cause agricultural damage, EPA (nationally) that restricts certain animals due to ability to damage the environment, state DNR, state agriculture, and, at both state and federal level, the legislature may make new laws that are not immediately reflected in the appropriate agency's paperwork.

It would be nice if some organization would gather a list of every animal and plant restricted and organize it by state, so that it would be easy to track such things.
 

mosin360

Snails? Really? I would have never thought snails would be illegal. I would think if you got caught shipping snails, they would give you a basic warning unless they had proof you knew of the law.

Did a quick google and wow, didn't know there were so many laws about snails!
 

sirdarksol

I would think if you got caught shipping snails, they would give you a basic warning unless they had proof you knew of the law.

That's not how US law works. It's been a crime show cliche since the 70's at least that ignorance is not a defense.
That being said, destruction of the animals is the worst of the likely consequences. I included the "found guilty of federal crime" because it's technically a possibility, and Congress is looking for ways to give teeth to these laws.

Snails? Really? I would have never thought snails would be illegal.

Yep. Think of how difficult it is to eradicate pond snails from an aquarium. Now think of if pond snails ate less algae and more complex plants. A pair of snails would be able to strip an aquarium in a month. This can happen on a larger scale in ponds, rivers, lakes, etc...
In one of the southern states, one person imported three giant African land snails. They were then released. A year later, there were something like 18,000 of them. The cleanup cost $1mil.
Apple snails have taken over dozens of ponds and lakes in MN, destroying the plants. The DNR isn't sure about how to deal with the problem.
Other snails are known to carry extremely nasty infectious diseases that can harm livestock and even humans.
 

Goldwing_Don

Very good thread sirdarksol thanks for the infox
 

Meenu

That's not how US law works. It's been a crime show cliche since the 70's at least that ignorance is not a defense.
That being said, destruction of the animals is the worst of the likely consequences. I included the "found guilty of federal crime" because it's technically a possibility, and Congress is looking for ways to give teeth to these laws.

Not even just a cliche. Ignorance of the law really isn't a defense.

Very good thread sirdarksol thanks for the infox

Yes.
 

sirdarksol

Not even just a cliche. Ignorance of the law really isn't a defense.

Sorry. That's what I meant. It is a cliche in crime dramas because it is true. Look at the big row regarding illegal file sharing. There are people who didn't know that it was illegal to do so who have lost some very big cases.
 

crazedACD

It would be nice if some organization would gather a list of every animal and plant restricted and organize it by state, so that it would be easy to track such things.
Yes, this would be very nice! I was actually surprised when I started digging that there isn't one. Another forum that I'm on has compiled a list by state, but it's not all inclusive. I actually wasn't aware apple snails were illegal until a few weeks ago.

Not sure on the snails, but don't try smuggling in an asian aro! Maximum penalty of 44 years, holy cow. I think in the future they will legalize them, as a lot of them are being captive bred now.
 

Lucy

Great write up sirdarksol, thanks for posting this.
 

Aquarist

Thanks SDS!

Great write up as always and very helpful information.

RainMan/Ryan thank you too!

Ken
 

jetajockey

Not even just a cliche. Ignorance of the law really isn't a defense.

That's so true. One of my friends was fined over 1000 dollars and nearly lost his boat and truck after getting caught with some fish that he misidentified. There is a 12" minimum size limit on spanish mackerel and a 24" minimum size limit on king mackerel. Juvenile kings are nearly identical to spanish mackerel, many people don't know how to tell the difference. Well as you can guess, he got caught with 4 12-18 inch juvenile king mackerel that he thought were spanish mackerel, and the FWC does not play around with this stuff at all, they threw the book at him. Luckily he got off with a large fine and got to keep his vehicle.

The FWC has regulation lists for harvesting, there should be some for each state, here is the one for florida. I don't know if they go into trafficking or not.
 

sirdarksol

That's so true. One of my friends was fined over 1000 dollars and nearly lost his boat and truck after getting caught with some fish that he misidentified. There is a 12" minimum size limit on spanish mackerel and a 24" minimum size limit on king mackerel. Juvenile kings are nearly identical to spanish mackerel, many people don't know how to tell the difference. Well as you can guess, he got caught with 4 12-18 inch juvenile king mackerel that he thought were spanish mackerel, and the FWC does not play around with this stuff at all, they threw the book at him. Luckily he got off with a large fine and got to keep his vehicle.

The FWC has regulation lists for harvesting, there should be some for each state, here is the one for florida. I don't know if they go into trafficking or not.


Thanks for the link. I think I'm actually going to work on compiling a list of links, and I'll start another thread for it.

All states are not created equal when it comes to communicating with their populace. Some states have most of their animal-related legislation in one place, so that people can find it easily. Others have it scattered throughout their list of laws. It entirely depends on whether there's a governing agency that cares to try to organize it in a manner that's easy to search.
 

sirdarksol

Update!
I have heard back from a permit programs specialist at the USDA.
I asked about several of the most common snails we are likely to run into. Here is her response.
"1. Melanoides tuberculata - Commonly called the Malaysian trumpet snail. We do not regulate movement of this snail. No permit required.
2. Lymnaea spp. - Common pond snails. No permit is required.
3. Clea helena or Anentome helena - Assassin snails. No permit is required.
4. Pomacea bridgesiI - Mystery snails. Even though they are of the Ampullaridae family, they are algae eaters. No permit is required.
5.Ampullaridae (non-Pomacea bridgesii) - Apple snails. Ampullaridae is a whole family of snails. All are restricted and will need a permit excepted the Pomacea bridgesiI snail (See # 4.)."

In short, the only common aquarium snails that are federally restricted are apple snails (not counting pomacea bridgesii), which are known to be major pests in aquatic agriculture. To ship apple snails, you need a permit.
Note: This list does not mean that the rest are legal to ship to all 50 states. I have only checked this with the federal government (and technically only with a small organization within that government). States may still have laws against particular animals, due to an invasive nature.
 

Lucy

Thanks for the follow up!
 

lorabell

Great info SDS....thanks!!!!!
 

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