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International Waters: Brazil Updates Freshwater Exports, But…

Posted: March 28, 2012, 2:10 p.m., EDT


By John Dawes

On Oct. 22, 2008, Brazilian authorities issued a normativa (regulation) which included two lists: one relating all the freshwater fish species (minus stingrays) that could be legally exported from the country; the other dealing with those that could be imported. Two other normativas were issued on the same day: one dealing with marines and another dedicated to freshwater stingrays.

The freshwater normativa, while marking a step forward in regularizing exports and imports of such fish species, still left worrying gaps in that, for instance, it prohibited the export of certain species, such as the oscar (Astronotus ocellatus) and the two species of arowana (Osteoglossum spp.), on the grounds that they were considered food rather than ornamental fish. This placed Brazilian exporters at a distinct disadvantage when compared to their counterparts in neighboring countries who could export these, and other, species legally.

Not surprisingly, there’s been a longstanding need and pressure to address this matter with regard to species allowed both for import and export. The result of discussions that have been ongoing to resolve these anomalies since before the issue of the above normativa is a new Normativa: Instrução Normativa Interministerial No. 1, published on Jan. 3, 2012. Without a doubt, this new normativa marks another important step forward.

Wild oscar
Wild oscars can now be collected and exported from Brazil and are no longer considered purely food fish (as shown). John Dawes
For example, the 2008 normativa listed 181 genera and species, although, in practice, it covered over 250, since loricariid (suckermouth catfish) L numbers (a classification system published by the German aquarium magazine Die Aquarien und Terrarienzeitschrift) were included. The new normativa lists fewer L numbers, but more species overall, including some of the most recently described, such as Peckoltia compta (described in 2010), Baryancistrus chrysolomus (2011) and several others.

Permitted L numbers are indicated either in their own right, either within the scientific name column, or under the common mame column, leading to some interesting situations. For instance, Hypancistrus sp. “L004’ is listed as such under the scientific name column, and as L005, L028 and L077 is the common name column. Other differences between the old and new normativa include the individual listing of eight twig suckermouth catfish (Farlowella) species in the new one and the listing of just the genus in the old.

But perhaps the most significant differences are that the new normativa contains many more permitted species (725 in total), among which are some significant ones that were left out last time. Notable among these are the two species of oscar (Astronotus crassipinis and A. ocellatus) and several piranhas (both Pygocentrus and Serrasalmus species). Also notable by their omission are the two above-mentioned arowana species which, presumably, are still considered food fish. One, though, the silver arowana (Osteoglossum bicirrhossum), appear on the list of species which can legally be imported into Brazil.

With regard to the species that can be imported, the new normativa takes a different approach to that adopted by the old one, which gave a list of fish whose import was prohibited. The new one, in contrast, provides a list of permitted species (501 in total).

Quite simply, if a fish does not appear on the list, it can’t be imported, no matter how illogical the situation might be, as exemplified once more by the gouramis, where only three species can be imported: the dwarf gourami (Colisa lalia), the honey gourami (listed as Trichogaster chuna) and the moonlight gourami (T. microlepis). So, as things stand, no one in Brazil can import blue/gold/ three-spot/cosby gouramis (T. trichopterus), snakeskin gouramis (T. pectoralis), leeri or lace gouramis (T. leeri), thicklip gouramis (C. labiosa) or Indian/striped gouramis (C. fasciata).

Why not? Interestingly, only T. pectoralis appears among the list of 16 species whose import is prohibited. What about the others? And what about the 14 or so species of snakehead which are not included in this list? Can they, along with the missing gouramis, be imported, though they don’t appear on the permitted list?

As I mentioned earlier, the new normativa marks a further step forward and must be commended for this. However, it still leaves us scratching our heads about the apparently illogical nature of some of the omissions. Will there be a further revision in a few years time? I sincerely hope so.

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