Aquaculture Lobbyist: A Big Fish In A Small Pond

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
21 May 2007, at 1:00am

US - FLORIDA. Pet fish may not appear powerful, but they do have their own political lobbyist.

"Let's just say we are a well-kept secret," says Marshall Meyers, executive vice president and general counsel for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

Meyers, 68, and his organisation represent the interests of Florida's Tropical Fish Farms Association and other pet industry groups when they feel threatened by federal and state government legislation and regulations.

His battles on Capitol Hill are important to Florida, the nation's leader in tropical fish production, and especially to the Tampa Bay area.

There are as many as 133 fish farms in the state breeding tropical fish that are sold in stores, and about three-fourths of those farms are in Hillsborough and Polk counties.

Sales of these "ornamental" fish from state breeders amounted to $33.2 million in 2005, according to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The tropical fish industry ships from 10,000 to 15,000 boxes of tropical fish a week from Florida; by volume, it's the largest air-cargo commodity from Tampa International Airport.

Government actions that can affect the industry come from all directions. Those actions range from homeland security responses to bioterrorism concerns, which can impact shipping and port inspections of tropical fish, to overzealous prohibitions on what Meyers says sometimes are based on "junk science." These have even included proposed rules and regulations on the use of drugs on fish.

Government isn't always the industry's nemesis. It can benefit tropical fish breeders, too, through allocations of money for research.

Says Meyers: "People have no idea or clue of the detail and specificity of the things we do for their goldfish."