Posted: Nov. 18, 2011, 9:00 p.m. EST
By John Dawes
Australia is well known for its strict legislation regarding alien fish, aquatic plant and invertebrates species, which are referred to as “Noxious.” Each state has the authority to publish its own lists (which include the national listings) and the latest to do so is New South Wales (NSW).
The NSW Primary Industries department has a section on its website (www.dpi.nsw.gov.au) dedicated to freshwater pest fish that makes for very interesting reading. After naming some of the routes through which alien fish are introduced into native waters—including deliberate introductions for specific non-aquarium purposes, such as the eastern mosquito fish (introduced for malaria control) and several species of trout (introduced for recreational fisheries)—it lists several species that are already widespread in NSW and are considered pests. These include three that are relevant to the ornamental aquatic industry: carp, including koi (Cyprinus carpio), goldfish (Carassius auratus) and the Oriental weatherloach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus).
Other ornamentals with established populations in NSW, but are not yet listed as pests are: green swordtails (Xiphophorus hellerii), platies (X. maculatus and X. variatus), Jack Dempsey cichlids (Rocio octofasciata—listed as Cichlasoma octofasciatum), pearl cichlids (Geophagus brasiliensis) and the speckled or one-spot livebearer (Phalloceros caudimaculatus).
The NSW Noxious Species list contains 114 species in Class 1, three in Class 2 and two in Class 3. Class 1 fish may not be imported, kept or sold under any circumstances and must be destroyed; Class 2 fish may be kept in aquaria but not in ponds, and cannot be sold—they must also be destroyed, unless kept in a “fully contained aquarium”; Class 3 fish may be kept and sold, but there is an “educational and awareness campaign to discourage possession and sale.” Part of this campaign includes the publication of an attractive, well-illustrated and well-constructed factsheet that is downloadable from the department’s website.
There are heavy penalties for the possession, sale or import of Class 1 fish, amounting to a fine of A$5,500 (c. €3,970) for an individual and A$11,000 (c. €7,940) for a corporation. Interestingly, the Class 1 list contains very few species that are of relevance to the ornamental aquatic industry, and none which are sold in any large numbers in other countries, e.g., knife livebearers (Alfaro spp.), climbing perch (Anabas testudieneus), sunfishes (family Centrarchidae), pygmy sunfishes (Elassoma spp.), red piranha (Pygocentrus spp.), walking catfish (Clarias spp.), snakeheads (Channa spp.) and several others. That a particular species (e.g., carp or koi) does not appear on the Class 1 list must not, however, be interpreted as indicating there are no restrictions on these species. Koi currently feature on the NSW Class 3 list and, although they may be kept, sold and imported, there are strict penalties if they are released into native waters.
There is also an additional list of fish species that cannot be imported into NSW without a specific permit. Among these are some species that don’t feature on the Class 1 Noxious Species list, such as the tench (Tinca tinca), pike cichlids (Crenicichla spp.), birchirs (family Polypteridae), roach (Rutilus rutilus) and others.
It’s obvious that NSW is taking varied, active steps to protect its native aquatic species. In going through its website in detail, though, I am left with the distinct impression that it’s not taking headline-seeking action, but is, rather, basing its decisions on the list of Noxious Species originally agreed after consultations held in 2006, in which representatives of the Australian ornamental aquatic industry were involved.
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