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Aquariumkeeping and the Law

Before purchasing animals for your aquarium, make sure you know the laws.

By Jay Hemdal |

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Various laws have been written in an attempt to regulate the wildlife trade, primarily to protect wild populations. Most home aquarists think that these laws only apply to commercial importers, but as will be shown, this is not always true. It can be helpful to understand these statutes to avoid legal troubles yourself, as well as to support the ethical and legal wildlife trade by being better able to avoid specimens that may have been traded illegally prior to your acquiring them. Please understand that I’m writing this from the viewpoint of a professional aquarist, and I’m not a lawyer.

Always confirm the legality of potential trade in wildlife with your local officials. The information in this article pertains mainly to federal laws as they are applied in the United States; other countries will have different laws. Also bear in mind that the application of some laws varies with the individual enforcing them. While this should not be the case — these things should be very consistent — you may come across an instance in which a wildlife officer enforces a particular law in an unexpected way. Additionally, wildlife agencies are hard-pressed to inspect every single transaction, so past success with a particular transaction does not necessarily mean that it was done legally.

Want to read the full story? Pick up the April 2011 issue of Aquarium Fish International today.

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