SWEEPING BAN on salamander trade/transportation in effect this month

If this thread has become too long and complicated for you and you just want to do something to help, please go here.

As far as comments on the federal register and letters to congressmen, I think it's not as necessary to have the most perfectly written and well thought out letter as to show numbers. I posted on the federal register so far, this isn't the greatest statement in the world but it's a start. I'm also going to write some version of this to my congresspersons next.

Peruse the comments on this thread and pick the ones you feel most strongly about and just get your opinion noted. Numbers are crucial. Thank you.

Start here with a comment

Click here to find your local congress members.

Find your senators

Find your representatives

My comment (for example):

The newt- and salamander-keeping hobby is much larger than you realize. Thousands of animals are sent interstate every year and many Americans support themselves wholly or partially from these sales. These diseases are not found in the pet trade. Cutting off the pet trade would increase the pressure for wild caught specimens, which is harmful to the native populations. Furthermore, hobbyists educate the public on the front lines to care for the future of these wonderful species. Many people would know nothing about these creatures without keepers and hobbyists, and the salamander pet trade. This knee-jerk ban does not help the problem but exacerbate it. We agree with an import ban; it would be wonderful if the demands for salamanders and newts could be met within the nation by small and larger scale newt and salamander breeders. It is not right to put an end to this hobby which brings joy and knowledge to so many people. There are better solutions. This plan is not well thought out or well grounded in scientific fact. Thank you.
Last edited:
Need 40 more signatures on my petition until we get to 200 signatures! Everyone please spread the word about the governments new law, the petition, and how/where to write a letter!
Here was my submission if anyone finds anything useful in it. I'm not currently involved in caudates that much, but fully support the concerns by this community. So, I tried to write it succinctly supporting these concerns with the expectation that the more knowledgable of you will flush out the details in your comments.

I am a cell and developmental biology research scientist and a member at caudata.org, a website that is focused on salamander enthusiasm. I am writing in support of the hobbyists concerns. Speaking from personal experience, amphibians in general are a powerful tool to stimulate interest in the sciences, especially amongst children. As such it is critical to protect caudate species against BsaI, and also the hobbyists that create interest and knowledge for these special animals, maintain captive populations and care greatly about overall caudate population health. In it's current state the current ban will create a rift between regulators and hobbyists and in fact has potential to increase risk of BsaI establishment in the US.

1. I support the ban on importation of the selected species. This will both diminish BsaI transmission risk as well as protect species in their native environments.
2. I am against the ban on interstate transport, as this does nothing to prevent spread of BsaI, which has not been identified in US populations. Such an interstate ban effectively furthers irresponsible backdoor trade in salamanders, which will inherently increase the risk of establishment of BsaI by:
- Indirectly encouraging people to secretly release banned species into the wild
- Creating a massive disincentive for captive breeders, which increases demand for irresponsible and illegal animal collectors
- Fostering non-cooperation between hobbyists and regulators, which will make any potential future BsaI outbreak impossible to track and control
3. I favor BsaI monitoring and certification of captive breeders that will create a trackable registry that will be of much greater benefit to the species overall.

In summary, the regulation in its current form is a reactionary and alarmist response to a serious situation in caudate biology that is not well grounded in science.
Only 10 days left to do something about this people, here is the link to submit a comment on the law: https://www.federalregister.gov/art...ders-due-to-risk-of-salamander-chytrid-fungus The link to my petition: https://www.change.org/p/u-s-fish-a...d-newts-illegal-to-send-across-us-state-lines And the link to Otterwoman's (Dawn's, don't know what she wants me to use) thread about contacting your local government to bring to the federal government: http://www.caudata.org/forum/f1173-...-do-something-about-ban-now-easy-version.html

[editor's note: either name works! -Otterwoman]
Last edited by a moderator:
Only 10 days left to do something about this people, here is the link to submit a comment on the law: https://www.federalregister.gov/art...ders-due-to-risk-of-salamander-chytrid-fungus The link to my petition: https://www.change.org/p/u-s-fish-a...d-newts-illegal-to-send-across-us-state-lines And the link to Otterwoman's (Dawn's, don't know what she wants me to use) thread about contacting your local government to bring to the federal government: http://www.caudata.org/forum/f1173-...-do-something-about-ban-now-easy-version.html

[editor's note: either name works! -Otterwoman]
For comments to USFWS, the public comment period lasts until March 14. Submitting comments earlier than that doesn't help. They aren't going to change the rule until the final version is issued, which is likely to be many months from now. At least this is my understanding.
You should read the paperwork several times. Think out a logical response. Write up your response. Think about it a couple days and redo it. Kind of like a paper for school. Just don't say the first thing that comes of the top of your head. I probably won't send in my comments for about a month.
There is one thing I would like to point out for those drafting their comments and letters. I have seen a few people say that Bsal is not present in captive populations, but in fact, it is-- just not in the US. It has been confirmed in private collections in both in Germany and the UK, apparently without having torn through these countries' wild populations first. Not that this is a hugely important point to make, but if we start generalizing and saying that it isn't present in captive populations period, it may provide more opportunities for those in support of the interstate ban to poke holes in our argument.
While this is an unfortunate position, it can also be an opportunity to come together as a community. I have a lot of respect for John Clare and how he has handled himself during these difficult times. Let this be a reminder to take nothing for granted. We are, at least at this time, to be allowed to continue to swap eggs and thousands of unlisted species remain. It's hard not to focus on the doom and gloom but there is a brave new world of exploration out there for us if only we would pool our resources and make it happen.

When will the next version be put forth? Why another version? And here is a cut and paste from end of page 1546 and the beginning of page 1547.
Three additional native salamander
species were identified as resistant to Bsal infection: The spring salamander
(Gyrinophilus porphyriticus), marbled
salamander (Ambystoma opacum), and
spotted salamander (A. maculatum)
(Martel et al. 2014). They are not
expected to be carriers; therefore, we
conclude that the 20 native U.S. species
in their genera are not capable of
carrying Bsal. This includes 4 species
from the genus Gyrinophilus and 16
species from the genus Ambystoma
(AmphibiaWeb 2015b). So are you saying that this can change with a new or different version and why would this happen?
Staking our hopes and focusing our efforts on fighting the interstate ban will prove a waste of time and energy, and a losing strategy.

Why? With a little reading of the USFWS material on this subject, I discovered that the interstate ban is AUTOMATIC. It's not optional, you can't have an import ban without also having an interstate ban, because that's how the Lacey Act is written. We would have to overturn or revise the Lacey Act (which is about 115 years old) to achieve this.

Consequently, we need alternate strategies:
a) argue for one of the alternate strategies suggested by USFWS,
b) argue to remove particular species or genera from the listing [are any native species previously listed as injurious, or are all "injurious species" until now exotics?].
c) argue for a solution other than the Lacey Act.

I wouldn't bother getting too far into that when you write a letter. Realistically, when it comes to enforcement, they'll have untrained laypeople labeling them all "salamanders... you can't have salamanders..." and fining or holding or doing whatever they'll do to people who break the law if/when it is passed.

I agree with you. I just wouldn't waste space in the letter for it. Keep those letters short. They're really only going to scan a page and a half at most. (Or, rather, some unpaid intern will scan for a quick read of what comes in if we're lucky.)

I disagree. This is NOT an enforcement issue, but a legislative one. Legislation depends on concise wording, solid logic, and reliable facts. If any of these is flawed, the "letter of the law" breaks down and the legislation fails to work as intended.

Every flaw in the legislation must be made obvious, to show that it will not work as intended or claimed. If facts are wrong, prove them so. If logic is fallacious, demonstrate how. If wording is inaccurate, imprecise, or wrong, point it out or exploit it.

Here's a recent paper on treatment of Bsal:
Successful treatment of Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans infections in salamanders requires synergy between voriconazole, polymyxin E and temperature : Scientific Reports
Here is my final draft of my comments for the U. S. FWS comment period regarding the federal ban on importation and interstate transport of 201 salamander species effective 1/28/2016. Thanks to Ed Kowalski for pointing out the relevant federal statutes and rules.

RE: FWS-HQ-FAC-2015-0005

To whom it may concern:

My name is George Axiotakis, an educator and serious hobbyist in New York. I am writing to offer my comments on FWS-HQ-FAC-2015-0005, the proposal to ban importation and interstate transport of 201 salamander species due to the possibility of Bsal contamination. It is my understanding that the Lacey Act entails a ban on importation and interstate transport. After correspondence and discussion with other private hobbyists and professionals, many of us believe the following steps can accomplish what the ban seeks to do. To be clear, we do not object to the importation ban; in fact, we approve of the importation ban as the best way to protect our pets and native populations, as there is no evidence to date of Bsal in North America. But we do find the ban on interstate transport to be problematic, unnecessary and potentially injurious to businesses, herpetologists and some of the listed salamander species.

The following suggestions specifically address questions 5 and 6 in the Agency's request for comments:

1) We strongly suggest testing protocols be implemented for extant captive collections. Businesses will undergo periodic testing, as the PCR assay can easily detect the presence of the Bsal fungus. Collections that test clean would receive appropriate certification for interstate transport. As a model, see Rule 7/17/2001 by the U. S. Dept. of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service allowing for "the interstate movement of certain land tortoises." In that case, interstate movement was allowed if animals were "accompanied by a health certificate signed by a Federal or accredited veterinarian..." https://www.federalregister.gov/art...interstate-movement-of-certain-land-tortoises

2) Be aware that serious goals of researchers and private hobbyists include education and conservation. These are not "play with" pets, rather we use them in classrooms to teach evolution and biodiversity. In addition, several of the listed species are threatened by climate change and human encroachment, and captive breeding of these animals ensures that there will be some viable populations;

3) We believe that the best way to ensure that only safe specimens are being kept and traded is to allow professional and private keepers to keep open, detailed records, thus eliminating any potential for a black market.

I thank the Agency for its consideration of these comments.


George Axiotakis
There are NO native species listed thus far, excepting fairly recent listing of the entire family Salmonidae, so there may be precedent with respect to native species not being "injurious" [to the environment]. There is a categorical listing of salmonid fishes, living OR dead, exotic OR native, unless proven 'clean', in order to prevent virus introduction. We need to look more carefully at that listing to see how it relates. The purpose of this addition was to prevent import of viral infections.

Here is a legal briefing on the Lacey Act, which is very interesting and potentially useful.

Takeaway points: two exotic species were delisted because they are already established and the Lacey Act serves no purpose. Granted, they are birds, which are quite mobile on their own.

Second, there is an ongoing question of whether the Lacey Act truly applies to interstate transport, or ONLY to import AND transport. That is, if it's already present, and not imported, the act should not apply. However, USFWS disagrees, and most of their actions seem to include implicit and explicit interstate bans.

Third, the Lacey Act normally bars transport of eggs. I would thus question whether this might be the case. If the Act bans egg transport, it might not matter what the stated intent is [see "letter of the law", above].

Fourth, it's in question whether the Act applies to all transport. Judging by the wording and some segregation of laws, commercial shipping is prohibited, but personal transport may not be. IE, "shipping" is banned, but all "transport" is not. The Act references "transport" and "shipment" in separate parts, and "injurious species" are barred from "shipping", not "transport". It would seem that congress intended to prohibit only commercial movement, not personal transport. USFWS disagrees, but it has not been before a court, and precedent suggests they're wrong.

Fifth, I would contend that the USFWS guidelines for assessing risk of establishment of a species in the USA have not been followed in this case. Siren, Notophthalmus, Taricha, and Plethodon are all native to the USA, and thus already "established". In addition, individual states have their own laws with regard to species not native to the state, which may be possessed or imported. Consequently, this is a conflict/redundancy with state laws, and a failure to properly address introduction risks.

Sixth, USFWS has no actual authority over microorganisms. Batrachochytrium falls under APHIS jurisdiction. Congress or APHIS can ban import of Batrachochytrium. Any import of any species, living or dead, CB or WC would have to be clean of Bd and Bsal, without anything being added to the injurious species list [apart from Batrachochytrium being added by congress].
I should reiterate two points:

Under the Lacey Act, illegally obtained animals and plants cannot be transported between states [section 16]. Injurious species cannot be SHIPPED between states [section 18]. The intended meanings are distinctly different, as are the sections of the Act. Although not yet tested in court, any of the listed salamanders could still be moved between states, but not shipped by common carrier. I suspect that the same conditions apply to eggs.

Second, USFWS consistently uses the word "transport" in place of "shipment", contradicting the wording of law. As far as they are concerned, an import ban is automatically an interstate ban and you can't separate the two.

They are right, at least with respect to use of common carriers, such as mail or courier service. Any argument about favoring an import ban while objecting to an interstate ban will fail completely.
Frog Eyes:

Any argument against the import ban is doomed (and also wrong in my view). You are correct about the wording of the Lacey Act. However, U. S. FWS does have the ability to enforce rules as it sees fit, that is why they are asking for comments.

I still think the best model is what the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service did regarding three tortoise species in July 2001 (due to their being potential carriers of heartwater disease, dangerous to livestock). I do not see any other model that can work for us at this point, other than potential legislation. The idea that Congress would amend the Lacey Act for caudate keepers is highly unlikely.

Again, I link to the 2001 rule

I wouldn't suggest arguing against the import ban, but the interstate ban argument is equally futile because the two things are tied by the Lacey Act. The best actions would be ban import of Batrachochytrium, demonstrate that treatment is possible, and remove all native species from the listing. For other species, interstate transport is still legal by the letter of the law. While USFWS may 'enforce' at their leisure, they don't operate much away from ports of entry, and they can't attempt to enforce their view on interstate transport without potentially putting the interpretation problem before the courts. Right now, their advantage is that people perceive or accept that USFWS is right, without knowing that precedent is not on the side of USFWS. Granted, it's not convenient to drive 2000 miles in order to personally "transport" fire salamanders or other non-eggs.
Multiple labs in the U.S. have already imported and are conducting research with live B. salamandrivorans.

From what I understand, APHIS has no jurisdiction over the fungus as it is not an agricultural pathogen. If this is the case, these researchers have no regulations governing what they do with the fungus, or where they transport it.

Obviously this is very disturbing.
I just found out about this a couple days ago. This is a real shock to the system. Kind of stinks for hobbyist. I do wonder what the future holds, as I am trying to stay positive the interstate ban could be lifted. Its interesting to see which newts make the list and which are left off.
Just a quick thought (as I have spent the better portion of the day reading this and signing petitions, reposting to Facebook and drafting my own responses). What about the species not on the list being impacted by this ban? Who would be regulating interstate sales? Can we expect them to know the difference between say an young axolotl and a larval spotted sal? Obvious to most of us but probably not so for whoever is regulating this ban. I'm sure there would be more than one case of axolotl enthusiasts facing backlash because someone checked the shipment and just saw a "salamander" and proceeded to punish the "lawbreaker" without regard to the list. This truly does effect all caudate species one way or another.
Here's a potentially useful point of logic:

The Lacey Act defines "shipping" to mean [more or less] 'movement by use of common carrier', and "transport" to mean 'movement by any method'. The former is used in section 16 to bar all movement between states of organisms obtained illegally. The latter is used in section 18 to bar [commercial] movement of injurious organisms between states.

When adding species to the injurious list, USFWS consistently uses the word "transport", while maintaining that the Lacey Act prohibits transportation of injurious species.

But...the Lacey Act does NOT prohibit transportation of injurious species.

So why this discrepancy? Should they not use the legally-defined terms as they are used in the legislation? Of course. Yet they don't, because they KNOW that they are wrong. They want the Act to be worded or applied differently differently than it is written.

It's a bit of a house of cards, since with every listing, they are using demonstrably incorrect legal language, and they are doing so with deliberate intent to deceive and to distort application of the law.
General chit-chat
Help Users
  • No one is chatting at the moment.
    There are no messages in the chat. Be the first one to say Hi!