Turtles, crayfish to be designated ‘invasive’ but can be kept as pets

Courtesy of the Environment Ministry
A red swamp crayfish, pond slider turtles

The Environment Ministry has decided to designate medium-size pond slider turtles and red swamp crayfish as invasive alien species “with conditions” from next June. The creatures, which have a negative impact on the ecosystem, will be allowed to be kept as pets even though releasing them into the wild will be prohibited.

The ministry began soliciting opinions from the public on Oct. 14.

It is estimated that 1.6 million of the turtles and 5.4 million red swamp crayfish are kept as pets in Japan.

If they were to be strictly categorized in a way that would prohibit owners from releasing them, selling them or keeping them as pets, it might have the paradoxical effect of some owners selling or abandoning them to avoid the trouble of obtaining a license, thus exacerbating the situation.

The enactment of the revised Invasive Alien Species Law at this year’s ordinary session of the Diet saw some regulations put on hold, thereby allowing people to continue keeping the pets. The revised law is due to be implemented around April next year.

The ministry also plans to upgrade the designation of fire ants — which pose an increasing threat of becoming permanently established in Japan — to “invasive alien species requiring urgent action,” allowing authorities to strengthen preventative measures against the ants.