Legislation changes to hit the fish keeping hobby in the UK

A successful day at the Fish keeper’s stakeholders meeting. For those wondering what that is, it was, and will be again a chance for our voice, we fish keepers, to be heard by the lobbyists and departments that are deciding the future of our hobby.

The future holds several significant changes to the legislation and we're not the only voices being heard. It’s not a stretch to point out that we are the quiet majority.

The vocal minority are the multimillion dollar industry that wants to see an end to fish keeping. The banner they fly is animal rights with statements like “end captivity” they are a threat that we cannot ignore.

At present fish keeping is relatively unmolested by harsh restrictions. We kick up a fuss about the loss of apple snails, but what if we lost hundreds, maybe thousands of species? If aquarium favourites vanished from our hobby?

There is a growing call for the introduction of so called positive lists. A restricted number of species that could be sold, kept and bred. No more conservation of species extinct in the wild, no need to send teams to discover new species ahead of the destruction of their habitats, and who knows what will become illegal to keep.

As well as this legislation, there is the invasive species act, introduced in 2015. We saw the decimation of the hobby for turtle keepers as a huge percentage saw their beloved pets become an illegal species.

Has it helped the environment? No, as shops now sell the larger cooters, the more aggressive softshells and the more cold tolerant common musk.

Three species of fish look to be added:

  • Channa spp. – Snakeheads
  • Ameiurus spp. – Bullhead catfish
  • Lepomis spp. – Sunfish

These species will be illegal to buy, sell, give away and breed,

Can we do anything? Yes, Tropical FishKeeping UK and The British Cichlid Association will be working to make sure our voices are heard and we will show that our amazing hobby advances welfare in every way possible.

After 66 years the Pet Animals Act is to be reviewed. This legislation covers pet shop licenses, and the changes are going to be significant for us keepers.

At present licensing is a postcode lottery, a few miles difference can mean more or less stringent inspections, the need for more qualifications and fees hundreds of pounds more, The review aims to make things clearer, consistent, and contemporary.

Where things will change is a line of legislation that will vanish in April 2018. At present if you sell fry from your own fish you DO NOT need a licence, that is about to change.

ANY hobbyist breeders might be considered commercial.

POSSIBLE exclusions

  • keeping for personal enjoyment or pleasure and selling excess stock.
  • Hobby breeder – private hobbyists who breeds animals for pleasure, exhibition for prize or for study and may sell surplus off spring.
  • Where the purpose of keeping is education, conservation or scientific advancement and need to sell offspring
  • Without intention to make a profit

These exemptions are not in yet, but OATA (The Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association) is lobbying hard on our behalf. Without them every guppy owner in the UK will need a breeder’s licence.

But what about auctions or selling at conventions and shows? If the above exemptions are in place hobbyist breeders will be fine, and can carry on moving surplus stock on. The change will be commercial license holders, both shops and breeders will not. How this will hit individuals is not clear. What about dry goods sellers with a fish house, or people that breed huge amounts?

Finally, the good news, OATA is working hard to ensure illegal traders are shut down, and will be using computer programs to identify these selling online without a licence.

Added to this is the “Pet Portal”. A website which will use the care sheets, guidelines and knowledge of the societies, groups and hobbyists to make sure people can get the best information possible.

Feel free to ask questions, and we will endeavor to get more information as it becomes available.


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