The US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced last Friday that waterfowl hunters in Canada will not be able to transport duck and goose meat across the US border. This blanket ban is a step up from the department’s previously announced restrictions, which prevented the import of waterfowl caught by poachers from designated control areas in Canada.
“Meat/carcasses of hunter-harvested wild birds that originate from or pass through Canada, will not be permitted to enter the United States regardless of the Canadian province from which the bird was harvested,” the department explained in a press release. “Hunter-harvested wildfowl awards entering the United States from Canada must be fully completed, accompanied by a VS Import Permit, or sent directly to a USDA approved establishment.”
The ban was announced around 6 p.m. on September 2 – the day after Canada’s hunting season began. This means that some itinerant hunters learned about these restrictions after they already had a limit for birds on land.
“I’m not even sure if everyone here is aware of this yet,” says Mike MacLean, owner of Prairie’s Edge Outfitting in Saskatchewan. But I know people are upset about it. Our first two groups weren’t happy – they were planning to take home all the birds they released.”
The USDA put these restrictions in place due to the ongoing outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (commonly known as avian influenza). The highly contagious disease has been spreading across North America since January, when it was first detected in an American pigeon killed by a South Carolina duck poacher. As a result, countless wild birds and more than 40 million domestic birds died.
The number of turkeys and chickens euthanized to protect the nation’s agricultural industry rose to 46 million on Wednesday, when highly virulent bird flu was detected in a major egg-laying operation in Ohio. Additional cases have also been reported on poultry farms in Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin over the past week, according to the Associated Press. This brings the country much closer to the 51 million domestic birds that were depopulated during the last major outbreak of bird flu in 2015.
With these numbers in mind, it’s no surprise that the USDA is doing everything it can to slow the spread of bird flu. The strange thing is how the federal agency goes about it.
In early July, the department had already enacted a ban on the import of birds that had been killed in designated watch areas. As we reported earlier this year, these additional restrictions have confused waterfowl hunters, who have noted a disconnect between US Fish and Wildlife rules regarding migratory birds and those imposed by the USDA.
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“I think what happens is that there are two federal agencies [the USFWS and USDA] “He doesn’t communicate with another person,” said Delta waterfowl biologist Dr. Chris Nikolai. outdoor life in July. “You have the USDA protecting agriculture. They used to raise livestock and handle eggs and chickens. Then you have the USFWS, and they handle bird identification and regulations. They never talk to each other.”
The USDA’s September 2 announcement took these restrictions a step further by banning the import of all game bird meat harvested from any Canadian province. It has many hunters and outfitters wondering about the exact rules and how the restrictions would help prevent the spread of bird flu in the United States.
Aren’t these birds already crossing the border?
As others have pointed out this week, the biggest loophole in the USDA’s current reasoning is that migratory birds are, well, migratory. Millions of birds that travel from Canada each fall will fly south whether we harvest them or not, and the highly virulent bird flu virus has spread across the continent all summer long without any help from hunters. Of course, once the birds migrate to the United States, hunters can legally harvest them.
That’s why Ducks Unlimited and other conservation organizations are calling on the USDA to reconsider its decision.
“Hunters are left to wonder why APHIS has reversed course in such a consequential decision, announced hours later this weekend, with no notice or opportunity,” Ducks Unlimited CEO Adam Putnam said the day after the USDA announcement. to listen to stakeholders. “DU members are justifiably upset by the lack of science and the complete lack of transparency around this blanket regulation that does not appear to have even included the US Fish and Wildlife Service in its development.”
Fishermen are caught between conflicting regulations
This is not the first time that fishermen in Canada have dealt with restrictions on the import of waterfowl caught by fishermen. In 2005, a global outbreak of bird flu led to a similar situation at the US-Canada border, and at some point during the season, poachers were forced to throw dead birds at the border in compliance with USDA regulations. However, these hunters technically violated the indiscriminate waste laws, which prevent athletes and women from intentionally wasting bushmeat.
Waterfowl are now left to navigate this gray area once again when they decide what to do with their harvested birds. Some hunters and outfitters interpret the USDA blanket ban to mean that only “unprocessed” meat and carcasses are restricted – which means that hunters could Allow the movement of cooked meat across the border. But McClain says he’s not taking any chances.
Now read: Is bird flu a threat to wild ducks and geese? Here’s what all hunters need to know
“For me it is just too risky because [the ban] It doesn’t specifically say that they will allow the meat to go through if it has been processed. It’s a gray area,” he explains. “It’s not about my interpretation of the rules, it’s about what the Border Patrols think, and all the Border Patrols I’ve spoken to say that there are absolutely no waterfowl crossing that border. So that’s what I tell my guests – you don’t get anything back and that’s what it is.”
MacLean adds that many Americans are still traveling north to hunt this season. A goose or duck hunting trip in Saskatchewan is a bucket list trip that most hunters plan months in advance, and McLane hasn’t asked any guests to cancel their trips due to the new rules. He says the ban could certainly affect fishermen’s numbers next season if it stays in place for too long. But for now, the only real change is that they will be donating more meat to the local community than usual.
“I mean, there’s not much we can do except donate all the meat,” MacLean says. “So, eat as much as you can here, donate the rest, and away we go.”