’15 ornamental fish species pose threat to native species’

Kolkata, June 11 (IANS) As many as 27 ornamental fish species have been reported in the inland wetlands of India and 15 of these have emerged as a threat to the native fish species, according to an invasive alien species expert.

“These species lead to the extinction of several native fish. So far, 27 ornamental species have been reported in the inland wetlands of India. Among them, 15 have already established a good breeding population and have emerged as a threat to the native species,” S. Sandilyan, Centre for Biodiversity Policy and Law, National Biodiversity Authority, told IANS on Saturday.

“For example, the suckermouth catfish emerged as a big threat to our native diversity,” he said.

Traders and hobbyists frequently breach the rules in India and introduce several ornamental fish species, including the notorious carnivorous piranha, he said.

The data provided by Sandilyan is published in a review article “Occurrence of ornamental fishes: a looming danger for Inland fish diversity of India” in Current Science journal on June 10.

“In the recent past, the global ornamental fish trade has emerged as a multi-billion dollar business. Exports have increased at an average rate of approximately 14 per cent per year.”

India has enacted only a “limited number” of overt legislations on fisheries, in particular, ornamental fish trade and release of fishes in the wild, Sandilyan said in the review expressing his own views on the issue.

“Due to this lacuna, for the past two decades many alien fish species have been clandestinely brought into India by private aqua-culturists, entrepreneurs, hobbyists and aqua-industrialists for instant economic benefits. It is mostly by the traders through ports bypassing the quarantine, and recently online trade has paved the way for the entry of exotic ornamental fishes,” he said.

“They outcompete the native species in several ways. For instance, they compete for food and shelter, consume the eggs, and the young ones of native species,” he said.

To deal with the threat, Sandilyan suggests creating awareness among the public about the impacts of ornamental fishes when they released into wild.

“Stringent measures should be taken to monitor the aquarium fish trade and accidental release of exotic species into inland waters,” he added.

–IANS

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