In March of 2010, the State Fish & Game Commission directed the Department of Fish and
Game to cease issuing permits for the importation of
live frogs and turtles for human consumption, the culmination
of a 15-year struggle.
The commission received nearly 4,000 letters supporting the ban, from conservation and
sporting organizations and the general public.
Two months later, pressured by Chinatown market interests
and a half-dozen legislators playing "the race card," two commission
members, President Jim Kellogg and Don Benninghoven
(now departed) attempted unsuccessfully to reverse the new policy.
Then, in September, department Director John McCamman
announced that the department would continue to issue
the permits on a month-to-month basis.
When challenged by an irate Commissioner Dan Richards,
Deputy Director Sonke Mastrup could only mutter, "the
director acts at the pleasure of the governor."
So much for the democratic process....
California annually imports some two million non-native American bullfrogs and 300,000 freshwater turtles for the live markets.
All are diseased and/or parasitized (though it is illegal to sell such products for human
Worse, when released into the wild, these exotics prey
upon and displace our native wildlife.
According to one 2010 study, 62 percent of the market frogs necropsied tested positive
for the chytrid fungus, which has caused the extinction
of some 200 species of amphibians worldwide in recent years.
The mandate of both the commission and the department
is to protect and enhance the state's natural resources.
They've dropped the ball on this one.
In many states (Arizona, Washington, Oregon, etc.), the commission has the power to hire and fire the
director of Fish and Game.
Not so in California, and our wildlife suffers accordingly.
Time for a change.
Hopefully, incoming Governor Jerry Brown will take
this matter more seriously than did his predecessors.
If not, legislation is in order.
Coordinator, Action for Animals