A fine kettle of fish

Ministry of Environment and Forest’s latest Gazette notification, which will come into force on August 22, sends a ripple of unease among ornamental fish traders and farmers

Published: 18th July 2017 10:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th July 2017 10:39 AM   |  A+A-

A child admires ornamental fishes at a pet shop near Deshabhimani junction on Monday  Albin Mathew

By Express News Service

KOCHI: The recent Gazette notification issued by Ministry of Environment and Forest imposing restrictions on sales of ornamental fishes have made the traders across the state apprehensive. The new order will come into play from August 22. In Kerala, the ornamental fish industry generates multi-million turnover. The trade figures show a steep increase in the last two years. Certain breeds like Miss Kerala from Kerala have a huge demand in foreign countries like Singapore. However, as per the new rule, Miss Kerala will be included in the list of banned ornamental fish.

In Kochi, there is a considerable demand for ornamental fish since they are a must have in an interior designer’s list. Among the popular breeds preferred by Kochiites, gold fish, angel fish and guppy top the list. These species are priced between Rs 16 to Rs 350 per pair.

Some exotic varieties like arona are priced around Rs 1 lakh per pair. Such varieties are not sold through outlets, but are supplied to the customers on demand.

The beautiful flower horn fish which cost around Rs 10,000 are also in high demand in the city.

Most of the traders here said the new rule has neither affected their customers nor their trade so far. “We have not received any official order asking us to stop our trade. We still carrying on trade and continue to receive fishes from the fisheries regulated by the government of Kerala. A major part of ornamental fish varieties come from Calcutta Agricultural University,” said Anirudhan, owner of Aneesha aquarium, Kochi.

Satheesh, who runs AAA Pets and Agros at Deshabhimani junction, said there has been no adverse effect on their business due to the new rules.

“The breeds listed in the guidelines are marine water and coral reef species. But if this rule gets implemented many of us will face big problems. It will also affect small scale pisciculture farmers. They will have to leave the field for the corporates,” he added.

The traders also blamed media for spreading wrong interpretation of the new set of guidelines. “The rule specifically says ban will be imposed on marine breeds and not any of the fresh water or aquarium fishes,” Satheesh added.

The guidelines also makes the presence of a full time veterinary doctor and an assistant mandatory at the breeding outlets. This will eventually make it really difficult for small scale traders to survive.

However, some traders allege the new set of rules are aimed at helping the corporates. “This new rules and regulations pave way for corporates to make their entry into Pisciculture industry. It is not the ban on certain fish breeds that is going to affect traders, but the newly regulated terms and conditions for the trade. It will make the entire trade rather complicated. The rules directs aquarium owners to secure new memberships through invigilators. This will increase corruption, since officials will get more discretionary rights,” said P T Tomon, an office bearer of   Ornamental Fish Farmers Association (OFFA).

Tomon, who owns Aquarius shop at Kaloor, said as per the new guidelines, they would  have to pay around Rs 5,000 per annum as registration fee in order to obtain a separate subsidy to run aquarium shops. “We are also being told to keep statistic records on the number of breeds being sold. We believe the real purpose behind this is to provide corporate groups information regarding demand and supply of the breeds,” he alleged.

The Rules and Guidelines

No establishment can sell or publicly display fish without a licence from the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) or any authority prescribed by the AWBI.

No licence can be issued by the AWBI or the competent authority unless the establishment complies with all the conditions listed in the rules for keeping of aquarium fish or fish tank animals.

No ornamental fish shop shall keep any species of cetaceans, penguins, otters, manatees or sea or marine turtles; artificially coloured fish; any species of fish tank animals listed in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (53 of 1972) or any species listed under the Appendix I of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species.

Any establishment who does not take proper care for the fish tank animals or maintain the facility in accordance with the specific rules is considered to be liable to have his license revoked .The establishment will be blacklisted and  the fish tank animals can be confiscated and may be given to another licensed establishment for proper care.

Every license can be issued for one year at a time and is not transferable.

Every aquarium should have a fisheries veterinarian or a fisheries expert employed full time for the purpose of overseeing the health care of all the fish tank animals in its collection.

The designs and dimensions of the fish tanks shall determine the number and species of fish that can be housed in the fish tank and the fish tank animals shall be housed in fish tanks as per directives and guidelines published by the Board.

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