Government scientists culled my pet fish

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A reader has had his pet fish destroyed after his application for a special licence to keep them was rejected, Practical Fishkeeping has learnt.

Paul Jordan of Watford had his two Chinese sailfin suckers, Myxocyprinus asiaticus, confiscated and destroyed by inspectors from The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) after his retrospective application to keep the banned species was declined.

Myxocyprinus asiaticus is one of more than 50 species of coldwater fish listed on the Prohibition of Keeping or Release of Live Fish (Specified Species) Order 1998 and cannot be imported into the UK or kept without obtaining a special licence from CEFAS (a department of Defra) beforehand.

Jordan told Practical Fishkeeping: "The two Myxocyprinus asiaticus were bought for me about a year ago. About a month ago I was told they were banned and was given a copy of Matt Clarke's article about banned fish, which I read. I honestly applied for a licence thinking that it was the right thing to do". "I honestly applied for a licence thinking that it was the right thing to do..."However, CEFAS told Jordan that his application to keep the fish in the aquarium at his home had been refused and that an inspector would be in touch shortly to arrange the collection of the fish.

The letter outlined that there were tight controls on certain fish species, including Myxocyprinus, to protect native species and that no licences had been issued to retailers or wholesalers to import the fish into this country, meaning that his fish must have been obtained from an illegal import by an aquatic retailer.

Jordan told us: "I wrote a letter back to strongly oppose the action, and received a second reply rejecting the application again. After 23 years of keeping and breeding fish I still have a strong love for this hobby and I feel angry and let down by the people who we are supposed to look to for advice and support.

"I thought it would be better to give a licence to people so CEFAS knew where, what and how many of these fish people had, so they could better keep an eye on the public."

Illegal tradeSenior Fish Health Inspector at CEFAS, Alasdair Scott, said that he could understand Jordan's concerns for what appeared to be a needless cull of his fish, particularly as he had been sought to obtain a licence when he discovered he was keeping the fish illegally.

Said Scott: "The import of this species is illegal. We are having to commit resources to prevent such illegal trade in temperate species, and therefore we cannot afford to legitimise the trade in such fish wherever they are purchased by persons who do not understand or know the relevant legislation.

"If we were to issue licences for such fish there would be an even greater incentive for those carrying out illegal imports to do so. Unfortunately, there are people like yourself who inadvertently fall foul of the legislation and we then have to act to resolve matters.

"Having to kill fish is the worst aspect of this work both for people like yourself and for the fish health inspectors whose profession is to protect the health status of our fish and support legitimate industry. The consequences of such trade are potentially much wider than the loss of small numbers of pet fish.""The consequences of such trade are potentially much wider than the loss of small numbers of pet fish..."Scott was not available to comment on how many of the species listed under the Act CEFAS had issued licences for, but it remains possible that some retailers may be importing and selling illegal species to an uninformed public.

Did Defra do the right thing? Give your opinion on the blog.

MAFF introduced the Prohibition of Keeping or Release of Live Fish (Specified Species) Order in 1998 in an effort to reduce the number of fishes illegally introduced into freshwaters in England and Wales.

The order lists a number of coldwater fishes that are believed to pose a threat to our environment. It stipulates that shops need a licence to sell the listed species, and that fishkeepers require a special licence to keep some of the fish mentioned. The order is made under the Import of Live Fish (England and Wales) Act 1980, or ILFA, for short.

For details on the species covered by this legislation please read our Frequently asked questions.