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Updated: January 9, 2013 10:46 IST

Expert calls for curbs on import of ornamental fish

T. Nandakumar
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Prof. Bella S. Galil from the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research, Haifa
The Hindu Prof. Bella S. Galil from the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research, Haifa

Says risk analysis should be made mandatory

With a rich diversity of native ornamental fishes, the aquarium trade in Kerala can do well without imported species, noted crab taxonomist and expert on marine invasive species Bella S. Galil said in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday.

Talking to The Hindu after delivering a public lecture organised by the Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, University of Kerala, Prof. Galil from the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research, Haifa, said the introduction of exotic species without observing protocols or carrying out risk analysis was fraught with danger. Many of these species could turn out to be invasive, posing a threat to local biodiversity. It was high time the State imposed regulations on the trade of ornamental fish. Kerala had the potential for a good aquarium trade based on native species. Risk analysis should be made mandatory for introduction of alien species. Prof. Galil said the move to introduce a Malaysian fish species in Kerala for solid waste management without assessing the risks was a crazy proposal.

“Water hyacinth has proved to be an invasive species and a curse on the beautiful backwaters in Kerala while the African catfish is elbowing out native species from several water bodies. The ecological and economic damage caused by invasive species can be heavy. The people here cannot afford to lose their patrimony with their own hands.”

Highlighting the danger of marine bio-invasion through ports, she said it was important for Kerala to carry out a port survey to assess the presence of alien species brought in by ballast water and ship fouling. “The survey can be a collaborative effort involving experts from different fields. It has to be followed by a risk analysis to identify invasive species. Based on the data, the State will have to come up with regulations to control new species”.

Unlike terrestrial pests, she pointed out, marine invasive alien species could not be controlled by chemical agents. “Prevention is the best option. Getting people involved is crucial,” she said.

The public lecture was hosted by the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment. Council executive vice-president V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai presided over the programme.

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