Japan to Ban Releasing Invasive Turtles, Crayfish into Wild in June

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Right: Pond slider turtle
Left: Red swamp crayfish

Pet owners in Japan should hold on to their pond slider turtles and red swamp crayfish even after they are officially designated as invasive alien species this summer.

As the creatures have a negative impact on the ecosystem, the government will implement a decree designating them as invasive alien species “with conditions” under the Invasive Alien Species Law on June 1.

The newly created designation means these species can still be kept as pets, but releasing them into the wild will be prohibited.

If individuals do release them into the wild, including cases in which the pets escape, they may face up to three years in prison or a fine of up to ¥3 million.

The two species are originally from North America and are highly fertile, harming the environment by outcompeting native species.

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

Previously, designation as invasive alien species would prohibit individuals not only from releasing these creatures into the wild but also from keeping them as pets. This raised concern that some owners might abandon their pets in anticipation of their being designated as invasive alien species.

In light of this, the government revised the Invasive Alien Species Law to enable designation as invasive alien species “with conditions” by government decree to allow them to be kept as pets.

If owners cannot keep them or transfer them to others, they will have to put their pets down on their own.