The Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association has welcomed a new order made under the Import of Live Fish Act which comes into force today (Monday February 17).
The new Act allows the trade to continue to sell almost all fish already on sale.
Following long negotiations with the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), which had the job of overhauling the legislation for DEFRA, OATA has ensured that risk assessments must be carried out if species are to be taken off or added to the list.
This means officials cannot remove a species without demonstrating the risk it poses to the UK countryside and it equally gives importers and retailers a clear process to follow if they want to introduce a new fish to the trade.
“This equity was of prime importance to us and it’s one of the reasons we welcome the new legislation,” explained OATA’s Chief Executive Keith Davenport.
“While it does create a ‘white’ list of fish that can be traded, which is not something we would normally support, Cefas’s open, pragmatic and collaborative approach to creating that list was a new and very welcome way of working which has given us a good outcome for the industry.
“For me, the real victory is that we’ve made sure we can’t lose trade in other fish in the future at the whim of officials. Each side has to prove its case for banning a fish from sale or introducing a new species to the market. And we welcome what lies at the heart of this risk assessment process – which is all about protecting the native habitat of the UK.
“However, from today Channel catfish and related species cannot now be sold because they have not been included on the white list. If importers or retailers who deal in these fish want to make a case for having them back in trade they can make the appropriate assessment of the risk the species poses to the wider environment.”
Cefas used the book produced by Ornamental Fish International (OFI) as the basis for the white list – although not every species listed by OFI was included on the white list. Both OATA and OFI (the international trade body) staff sat down with Cefas officials to go through each species on the list in preparation for the final statutory instrument which comes into force on Monday February 17.
“That was a very long meeting but such an admirably in-depth examination of each species with the trade bodies gave all sides the chance to have their say and gave us all an end result that we can all support and get behind,” Keith added.
A DEFRA spokesperson said: “The new legislation is an important step in protecting our native biodiversity as well as ensuring established trade in non-native fish species can continue. We thank OATA along with our other stakeholders for their positive contribution to the policy-making process, which was achieved through transparency, willingness and partnership working on all sides.”