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Brazil Creates Import, Export Laws

By John Dawes

Some Colisa gouramis can be imported into Brazil, but the regulation does not list others. (Courtesy of John Dawes)
On Oct. 22, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) issued three normativas, or regulations (numbers 202, 203 and 204), dealing with marine ornamentals, freshwater ornamentals and freshwater stingrays. Given that the number of freshwater fish exported from Brazil far outweighs the number of marines and stingrays, Normativa 203 is the focus this month, with the remaining two appearing in future installments of “International Waters.”

Since the new regulation does not allocate quotas to any of the species it lists, unlimited numbers can be exported. Although 181 genera and species are listed, the legislation extends to more than 250, as L-numbers (designated loricariid, i.e., suckermouth catfish) are also included. Additionally, several genera are listed just by their generic names—e.g., Hyphessobrycon spp.—indicating that all the species in such genera can be legally exported.

Species not included on the list cannot be legally exported, with a couple of exceptions, such as those that are subject to their own legislative controls. Freshwater stingrays, for example, can be exported under the criteria dictated by such legislation. Species that do not naturally occur in Brazilian waters or that are cultured in appropriately registered premises accompanied by a certificate of origin can also be exported—e.g., guppies, swordtails and platies.

The new normativa also lists species that can be legally imported for commercial or aquarium purposes. There are 379 species on this list, including the oscar (Astronotus ocellatus), although export is prohibited. It therefore seems that Brazil considers the oscar an ornamental fish when it is imported, but not with regard to exporting, which it prohibits on the grounds that the species is regarded as a food fish.

Another list features 16 freshwater fish species with import being prohibited. Among these are six species of snakehead (Channa spp.), yet there are more than 20 in the genus. A surprising inclusion is the snakeskin gourami (Trichogaster pectoralis), the only species of its genus named, while the moonlight or thinlip gourami (T. microlepis) is the only other Trichogaster species to appear on the permitted list. Two species of Colisa are also permitted: the dwarf gourami (C. lalia) and the honey gourami (C. chuna).

The normativa lists C. chuna as Trichogaster chuna, using the name given to the honey gourami by the online reference, FishBase. However, since this is the only major database that uses this classification, and, since the species in question is regarded worldwide as a valid Colisa species, I have referred to the honey gourami as Colisa chuna.

What about the thicklip gourami (C. labiosa) and the Indian or striped gourami (C. fasciata)? These, along with numerous other fish, have been left in some form of limbo in which the law neither permits nor bans their import. How this will be dealt with in practice has yet to be answered.

Despite the progress represented by Normativa 203, it still leaves worrying gaps and does nothing to relieve the pressure Brazilian collectors operate under with regard to oscars and arowanas (both with export prohibited). These species can, however, be legally exported from neighboring countries, which gives their exporters a commercial advantage over their Brazilian counterparts.

Parasite Hits Reef Clams

These beautiful giant clams could be hiding a parasite. (Courtesy of John Dawes)
A University of Florida News report refers to an outbreak of Perkinsosis in a laboratory population of Tridacna clams held in a University of Florida laboratory during early 2008. The specimens were raised in aquaculture facilities in Vietnam, from where they were, reportedly, exported to the U.S.

Giant clams are colorful additions to home marine aquaria. But Perkinsus olseni, the parasite, affects not just the giant clam (Tridacna gigas), but a number of other clam and mollusk species. Effects range from the appearance of lesions on muscle tissue to different levels of mortality—e.g., from 30 percent to 40 percent in 1.2-inch to 1.6-inch greenlip abalones (Haliotis laevigata) to 100 percent in laboratory stocks of Tridacna clams.

Analyses carried out on the dead specimens revealed two species of Perkinsus: P. olseni and another species that has yet to be identified. The disease itself, while having serious effects on clams and some other mollusks, does not present a threat to humans, i.e., it is not a zoonosis. Neither does it present a threat to most other reef-aquarium inhabitants.

According to Barbara Sheppard, a clinical associate professor at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, the disease’s detection in Florida indicates it will have also been introduced elsewhere in the U.S. via affected imports. There is, of course, also the possibility it may have arrived in Europe as well.

The University of Florida News report highlights a further concern among scientists because it illustrates “the largely unregulated environment in which the importation of aquacultured reef clams from Asia occurs,” the report states. <HOME>

John Dawes is an international authority on fish, aquariums and outdoor fishkeeping.


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