Group Cites Felony Conviction, Apparent Endangered Species Act Violations
For Immediate Release:
December 5, 2013
David Perle 202-483-7382
Austin, Texas – The Austin Aquarium won’t have a protected sea turtle display if PETA has its way. That’s because the group has just submitted a complaint to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service asking it to investigate Ammon Covino—who, with his brother, Vince Covino, is behind the Austin Aquarium—for apparent violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to deny the aquarium a permit to display protected sea turtles. PETA’s complaint comes in the wake of a federal court’s decision earlier this week to sentence Ammon Covino to a year and a day in prison for conspiring to buy illegally captured spotted rays and lemon sharks in violation of the Lacey Act, which prohibits illegal trafficking in wildlife.
In the complaint, PETA points out that, according to former employees of the Idaho Aquarium, which Ammon Covino served as an officer for until this past September, an endangered green sea turtle named Beam has been held in conditions that violate the ESA standards for the care of protected turtles—violations that serve as grounds for revocation of the permit required to exhibit protected turtles.
“Ammon Covino has apparently violated the spirit and letter of the Endangered Species Act,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders. “PETA is calling on the authorities not to let this neglect and mistreatment of animals spread to Austin.”
A whistleblower reported that on multiple occasions, Beam’s tank contained extremely high levels of nitrates (a byproduct of the breakdown of waste, including feces and uneaten food)—up to approximately six times the recommended limit—and coliform bacteria levels in the tank far exceeded the allowable limit. Information provided by the whistleblower also indicates that Beam was fed an improper diet.
PETA also filed a request with the U.S. Department of Agriculture this morning urging the agency not to issue the aquarium a license to exhibit seals and otters.
PETA's complaints are available upon request. For more information, please visit PETA.org.