Should the sale of frogs and other amphibians be restricted to prevent the further spread of the deadly chytrid fungus? That's the question the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is asking, and they want your input.
The chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd ) has spread around the globe since it was first observed in 1999, putting thousands of amphibian species at risk of extinction. It has already caused the expatriation or extinction of at least 200 species. One of the primary causes of the spread of chytrid fungus is interstate and international trade, for either the pet or restaurant industries, according to Kerry Kriger, founder of Save the Frogs!, a Santa Cruz, Calif.–based foundation.
The chytrid fungus causes a potentially lethal skin disease called chytridiomycosis, which interferes with amphibians' ability to absorb water and oxygen through their skin. After the fungus hits an amphibian community 80 percent of individuals can be expected to disappear within one year, according to Amphibian Ark. No cure or prevention for the malady exists, although there are methods to help identify it.
FWS agrees that trade is spreading the fungus; the service is now considering listing all live amphibians and their eggs as "injurious wildlife" under the U.S.'s 110-year-old Lacey Act, which regulates the import or transport of wildlife species that are either dangerous to humans or the environment. If the law is invoked, any live amphibians or amphibian eggs would require a health certificate proving they were not infected with chytrid before being transported across state lines or imported into the country. This would not affect any amphibians that people or companies already own, only those about to be transported.
"The new government proposal is fabulous news for frogs, toads, newts and salamanders," Save the Frogs!'s Kriger said in a prepared statement. "Many of our native amphibian species have little or no resistance to the chytrid fungus. Since there is no known way to eradicate the disease from the wild, we have to keep it from spreading to new populations, and that's what this proposal intends to do."
"The worldwide decline of amphibians is of great concern to us," FWS Acting Director Rowan Gould said in a statement. "We understand that halting the spread of the fungus or eradicating it will take more than just regulating importation and transportation of infected amphibians, but it is a major step in the right direction."
What happens next? The public now gets its say, and can comment on this proposed regulation until December 16.
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