California gator ban puzzles Louisiana conservationists

"We’ve got about as many gators as registered voters"

March 23, 2019 - 11:39 am

(WWL.com) - 60 years ago the Golden State, hoping to stem the tide of 20th century extinctions, agreed to ban the sale of “endangered” animal products in their state by 2020. One of the animals listed was alligators, and Louisiana Sea Grant Spokesperson Mark Shirley says California’s legislature may not be aware that we’ve got about as many gators as registered voters.

“Louisiana has over three million alligators crawling around in our wetlands. So, the California law, while well intentioned, is actually counter to our conservation efforts.”

At one time alligators were considered endangered, but the population has recovered, and we now harvest over 300,000 gators on farms and in the wild in Louisiana annually.

This old law is turning into a ticking time-bomb for local alligator industry, which makes a lot of it’s money selling skins to California fashionistas and pharma companies. Shirley says the misinformed sentiment could end up putting Bayou State farmers out of business.

“There are a lot of high end retailers in California, and if the sale of alligator products was restricted, it would effect our Louisiana alligator industry.”

Harvesting gator skin and meat is a nearly 60 million dollar industry.

So Louisiana’s congressional delegation is asking the California legislature to reverse course,and support a proposed law that would overturn that old law before the January 1st blanket ban goes into effect. Shirley says if our west coast friends really want to save the gators, they should eat some or wear some, not ban them.

“By allowing the sale of alligator products, you are contributing to the conservation of the species, the protection of wetland habitats, and all of the good things that alligator products produce.”

Bayou State wetlands are home to the country’s largest alligator population, with Florida in second place.

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