Host your butterfly-themed weddings while you can. San Francisco's seven-member Commission on the Environment voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a resolution that would urge the city's environmental department to ban the release of commercially bred butterflies at weddings.
Environmentalists have long opposed the practice, fearing that the releases can lead to the transfer of disease from breeding facilities into the wild, weakening other populations and leading to more die-off. Interbreeding between native and industrially raised butterflies may also be potentially hazardous.
"Experts state that release of non-native and/or commercially raised butterflies can cause the introduction of deleterious genes into local populations," reads the resolution. "Which could negatively influence the survivorship potential of native butterflies."
The resolution might carry more weight now that monarch butterfly populations are on the decline. The number of monarchs successfully reaching their winter home in Mexico dropped 59 percent this year to a record low of 3 million.
Butterfly breeders are already responding to the resolution, arguing that such releases remain a possible remedy for declining butterfly populations.
"If they disallow reintroduction they will actually be injuring the butterfly population," says International Butterfly Breeders Association spokesperson Dale McClung. "People are just going to order butterflies anyway."