Are we looking at a ban?

My dad has dementia, yes I know a weird way to start an article about fish, stay with me here. When dad sees an issue he always has the same response, “well someone should shoot them.” Now he’s proclaimed that wisdom the problem in his world has gone away.
Who needs shooting we’re not sure, but I see a similar behaviour across the fish world, and this recent warning that Oryzias should only be sold for tanks has brought out a lot of issues. But goldfish, but koi, but swans, but invasives of all other types, cats do more damage to the ecosystem, there are worse threats out there. Yes we know, but arguing about it on social media is doing exactly the same as when the old solider who I started this post discussing proclaims, “Well someone should shoot them.”

The issue is about Oryzias, you might know them as rice fish. Great little fish for a smaller tank, they don’t need heating, so even better for your electricity bill, and importantly the licence conditions that allows them to be imported say they can be sold to people keeping them indoors only. OATA published a warning here https://ornamentalfish.org/industry-warned-to-ensure-oryzias-species-must-only-be-sold-for-indoor-aquariums/?fbclid=IwAR3UNhswfJxF-UrihBoVPQOuQVWWJ-CCnR04KNBD6qCY41kQgtjSw413M6k

Let’s go back to basics, there are a lot of layers of government who can change the laws about our fish keeping, so for the sake of this article let’s just say it’s all the FHI, or the Fish Health Inspectorate.
Here is a simple fact, invasive species are bad, negative, not good. How not good they are, and compared to other not good things where they fall on the scale is up for wide and far-reaching debate. But we do not need more species from other countries in our waterways.
Here is another fact, you can whine about it as much as you like, the FHI do not want more invasive species in our waterways, and if we are buying them for outside, and any other species, that means they can establish themselves in our rapidly warming canals and rivers.
Final fact and most importantly, the law states clearly that these should only be imported to be kept in indoor tanks.
But, but, but goldfish. I know but the law doesn’t care.
A brief dive into the law. There are things that are morally fine, but actually illegal, there are things that are morally terrible, but totally legal. The law doesn’t care, and that includes the guidelines surrounding the law. If you want things to change you need to get the law or the guidelines changed, and that is a lot harder than signing another petition or pointing out the totally logical reason why the law is an ass.
If a fish can become an invasive species, meaning it can survive our winters and breed, then it is at risk of being banned from being imported. That’s a simple fact.
Now, what are the arguments that are flooding the posts about this? Well put simply the natural ecosystem in the UK is screwed up. There are few rivers that haven’t been physically altered in the 2000 years since the Romans arrived and started making rivers into highways and canals. We then spent two millennia straightening rivers, then damming them for mill power, then knocking down the weirs and dams when the river act came into play. Add fords and bridges, jetties and bank support, fallen buildings, shipwrecks, and more drainage ditches than you can imagine, and our rivers are not natural.
Add to that fish being introduced for fish, farming, escaped goldfish, our love of rescuing swans, releasing them in areas and then people feeding them. Swans have long necks to reach down and eat plants from the river bed. This destroys the habitat for fish. Ships coming to the UK have released zebra mussels from their ballast water, signal crayfish are taking over areas, and yes there are some invasive fish out there.
The worst threat is pollution in many areas. I had the fortune, or maybe misfortune of spending a lot of my life living on the banks of the River Mersey, and I mean that literally. The compost heap at the bottom of the garden had to be rescued every few years as the river undercut the bank. Pollution was so bad for decades that the river was declared functionally dead. Swathes had no oxygen content. Tougher laws meant that the River Mersey improved. We saw salmon and seals, dolphins, and happy fishermen.
Now massive discharges of sewage, agricultural runoff, industrial pollution, and even flea treatments on dogs are being pointed at as reasons for massive losses in fish species in this country, and in the middle of all this with thousands of species threatened, the poor old ricefish is at risk of being banned.
Yes, because the FHI and all the other bodies involved have many people and can multitask, and just because one department is dealing with one issue, does not mean another department isn’t going to look at this issue.
So what can we do? Obey the law and keep them inside. If you want to keep them outside then you’d best start working to change the law, as I quite like having these in the hobby.

Fancy supporting us? There are a lot of people trying to limit our hobby, we are fighting to help educate keepers, and to be a voice for the hobby.



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Ruth McDonald

Sailed twice around the world, started my acedemic career as an archaeologist and somehow ended up lecturing on science and researching fish.

Tropical Fish Keeping UK