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8:32 AM   April 25, 2015
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New Zealand Implements New Import Regulations

New Zealand is the latest country to publish legislation relating to the import of ornamental aquatic organisms, more specifically, freshwater fish, marine fish and marine invertebrates. The new regulations were published on the New Zealand government’s biosecurity website on December 17, 2009. The document is called Importing Ornamental Fish and Marine Invertebrates from all Countries. It takes a different approach to most equivalent documents published elsewhere. Instead of including a list of banned or restricted species, it includes a long “Positive List” of all the freshwater and marine fish and invertebrates whose import into New Zealand is permitted.

Colisa Gourami
The Positive List is particularly confusing when it comes to species such as the Colisa gouramis. Photo by John Dawes
While this sounds simple enough in theory, its apparent simplicity is deceptive. For example, only in going through the list does one discover rthat species such as the goldfish (Carassius auratus) and koi (Cyprinus carpio) are not on it, indicating that their import is banned. Other notable absentees include most coldwater fish, along with a host of those species generally referred to as coldwater tropicals, i.e., tropical species that can withstand low, or relatively low, water temperatures.

In addition, species such as the paradise fish (Macropodus opercularis) and its relatives (e.g. the genera Pseudosphromenus and Parosphromenus) are also excluded--except for one species of the latter (the licorice gourami, P. deissneri), although all 19 species in this genus have basically the same requirements and tolerances. Also excluded are the white cloud mountain minnow (Tanichthys albonubes), the medaka or rice fish (Oryzias latipes) and its relatives, and many others.

All the goodeids are also absent from the list. However, whether this is because they are deemed potentially noxious or because the authorities are not really aware that modest quantities are traded in many countries, is not made clear. In particular, the butterfly goodeid or ameca (Ameca splendens) is one of these traded species, captive-bred stocks of which are easy to obtain throughout the U.S. and Europe. A similar situation applies to wild-caught stocks of the newer Indian freshwater species that are currently traded worldwide.

One of the more confusing aspects of the listing relates to the popular gouramis belonging to the genus Colisa: the dwarf gourami (C. lalia), the honey gourami (C. chuna), the thicklip gourami (C. labiosa) and the striped or Indian gourami (C. fasciata). For a time, FishBase, the main online reference for fish genus and species, listed C. labiosa and C. fasciata as being members of the genus Trichogaster, i.e. T. labiosus and T. fasciatus (and T. bejeus), something that those who know these fish intimately generally reject. FishBase has, however, now returned to the original names for these species.

The Positive List, though, includes C. lalia and C. chuna as such, and as species that can be imported, but still lists C. labiosa as T. labiosus and, mysteriously, omits C. fasciata (under either name) altogether. This means that C. fasciata cannot be imported. Adding a final bit of inconsistency, the honey gourami is listed as both C. chuna and T. chuna.

I’ve only selected a few examples of freshwater ornamental fish to illustrate potential and actual sources of confusion with the new import laws. I haven’t even touched upon marine ornamental fish and invertebrates. Furthermore, the new regulations make no mention whatsoever of freshwater invertebrates, such as decorative shrimp, snails, etc.

Interestingly, New Zealand used to have a list of prohibited species, but it was deemed to be too confusing, so it’s been substituted with the Positive List of species that can be legally imported. However, the possibility for confusion still exists, further complicated by the law (apparently) being sometimes interpreted differently on the North and South Islands.

No doubt, we’ll be hearing much more of this complicated situation as the new law is implemented on a day-to-day basis at ports of entry into the country over the coming months. <HOME>

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