Importers and retailers in England and Wales are being warned to carefully check the gar species they sell to ensure they are not trading in illegal fish.
Only Atractosteus tristoechus (Cuban gar) and Lepisosteus platyrhincus (Florida gar) are permitted for sale under the Import of Live Fish Act (ILFA) in England and Wales.
Concerns have been raised by the Fish Health Inspectorate following seizures it has made of hybrid and colour morphs which could potentially survive in native waters.
The industry is being warned that if illegal gar species continue to enter the country for sale in England and Wales then action is likely to be taken to ban all gars from sale in those two countries of the UK.
However, the situation is made more complicated because gar species that cannot be sold in England and Wales can be sold in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and often enter the UK through English border inspection posts.
For the next six months, FHI will monitor any imported gars and have warned it is likely to seize imported gars of indeterminate species for checks. FHI will be using techniques such as DNA analysis to determine the species imported and whether it is a hybrid (and of which species they are hybrids).
“It’s not ideal that there are differing laws covering gars, and many other species, across the UK because it does make the situation more complicated but we have summarised the situation for the whole of the UK in advice that can be found on our website at ornamnentalfish.org,” said OATA Chief Executive Dominic Whitmee.
“We urge everyone to check that advice. In particular, English and Welsh importers, wholesalers and retailers must carry out due diligence to ensure that what you buy or sell is what you think it is. Importers are advised to ask their exporters to ensure that no hybrids are being sent – whether they appear normally pigmented or are more extreme colour morphs.
“And please remember that valid scientific names should be used – trade names and common names for species arenot reliable identifiers of species. Some of the trade names apply to several species and possibly inadvertently imply cold tolerance. So purchasers of ‘snow’ gar for example should be very confident they are purchasing a permitted species.”
It is highly likely that any gars entering either Northern Ireland or Scotland will have to be imported through a Border Inspection Post in England. This will still be possible if the fish remain in unopened boxes and their final destination is clearly stated on the accompanying documents.
“While more gar species can be sold in Scotland and Northern Ireland the concern about these non-native species becoming invasive is the same – it’s just dealt with using different laws. So retailers in Scotland and Northern Ireland should continue to impress the ‘no release’ message when they sell these species – or indeed any fish.”
OATA is also concerned that the complicated picture over gar species could mask illegal sales over the internet.
“ILFA applies to everyone – not just businesses – and this situation may prove another example of bonafide businesses which follow the law losing out to people who don’t. If you see examples of fish being sold illegally in England and Wales then please gather as much information as you can, including photos and screenshots, and report this illegal activity to FHI.”
Full advice can be found here http://www.ornamentalfish.org/