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'Habitattitude' prevents non-native species invasion     Send a link to a friend

[NOV. 2, 2004]  URBANA -- Federal agencies and the pet industry are teaming up to help consumers prevent the release and escape of non-native plants and animals. Habitattitude™, a new public education and outreach effort, was launched Sept. 24 at the Super Zoo trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada. The government-industry coalition is formed from the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network.

Habitattitude encourages aquarium owners and water gardeners to avoid unwanted introductions of non-native species by adopting simple prevention steps when faced with an unwanted aquatic plant or fish:

  • Contact a retailer for proper handling advice or for possible returns.
  • Give or trade with another aquarist, pond owner or water gardener.
  • Donate to a local aquarium society, school or aquatic business.
  • Seal aquatic plants in plastic bags and dispose of in the trash.
  • Contact a veterinarian or pet retailer for guidance on humane disposal of animals.

"Beginning this fall, when aquarium hobbyists, backyard pond owners and water gardeners purchase fish or plants for their tanks or ponds, they'll receive the Habitattitude message," said Marshall Meyers, executive vice president and general counsel of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council. "Through collaboration with NOAA's Sea Grant Program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state fish and wildlife agencies, the American Nursery and Landscape Association, and other industry partners, we plan to get Habitattitude in front of millions of consumers."

Habitattitude materials will be displayed in aquarium stores, aquatic retail outlets, hobby magazines, and nursery and landscape businesses across the country, as well as on packaging of related products.

A new website, www.habitattitude.net, will help consumers to learn more about responsible behaviors and how to prevent the spread of potential aquatic nuisance species. The site includes information on federal and state laws and statutes that regulate aquatic organisms, recommended alternatives to releasing plants and animals, instructions on how individuals and clubs can get involved, and detailed information on some of the more problematic aquarium and water garden species that have created problems with our native aquatic systems.

"The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy Report details how we should coordinate public education and outreach efforts on aquatic invasive species with the aim of increasing public awareness about the importance of prevention," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administrator. "This program falls right in line with that recommendation. Non-native plants and animals can cause irreparable harm to the environment and can damage recreational and commercial uses of our aquatic resources."

"Invasive species have become a major concern for natural resource managers in North America," said Dick Warner, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant director. "Habitattitude will provide pet owners and water gardeners information that will enable them to help them prevent the spread of such species."

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"Habitattitude builds on the successful government, business and citizen partnership that is helping stem the spread of the zebra mussel across the United States," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams. "While most invasive species come into the country as hitchhikers through commercial trade, some aquarium owners and water gardeners have unknowingly complicated the challenge invasive species pose for conserving America's wildlife and landscapes. Habitattitude will give them the knowledge they need to help them prevent invasive species introductions and conserve the natural world they appreciate so much."

The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and its members, who represent 70 percent of the U.S. pet industry and 90 percent of the aquarium industry, have committed over $1.1 million to the campaign. Their contribution leveraged an $89,000 grant from NOAA's National Sea Grant College Program to Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and a $100,000 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service effort. For its part, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant has developed a multifaceted outreach plan to educate retailers, aquarium hobbyists and garden pond owners in support of the Habitattitude campaign.

NOAA is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation's living marine resources and the habitat on which they depend through scientific research, management and enforcement. NOAA's stewardship of these resources benefits the nation by supporting coastal communities, while helping to provide safe and healthy seafood to consumers and recreational opportunities for the American public. To learn more about NOAA, visit www.noaa.gov.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. To learn more about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit www.fws.gov.

The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program is one of 30 in the National Sea Grant College Program. Created by Congress in 1966, Sea Grant combines university, government, business and industry expertise to address coastal and Great Lakes needs. Funding is provided by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University at West Lafayette, Ind.

[Joint news release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Great Lakes Sea Grant Network, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council; provided by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant]

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