New regulations for the ornamental fish industry are crucial to the protection of Sri Lanka’s endemic species as well as the future of a potential growth industry, according to the Live Tropical Fish Exporters Association of Sri Lanka.
“More recently, there have been accusations that we, as an industry, are seeking to loosen regulations in order to export fish and boost our profits but that is simply not the case. At present, the law places strict restrictions against breeding or export of endemic species of fish but this has only resulted in individuals smuggling fish out of the country and breeding them in other countries without any returns to Sri Lanka.”
“By easing these restrictions, we can recapture a larger share of the export market and use a portion of the proceeds to do work that will go much further towards protecting our habitats, which are under serious threat due to severe pollution and this is something that we, as stakeholders, are very keen on, as it will ensure the long-term sustainability of these habitats and consequently, our industry,” Chairman and Managing Director, Aquatic Nurseries, Sathy Wijayapura said.
The global trade of live ornamental fish alone is worth US$ 300 million, whilst the trade’s peripheral industries are estimated to be worth a total of US$ 3 billion.
However, Sri Lanka only accounts for 3% of market share, in comparison to Singapore, which accounts for 18%.
The majority of ornamental fish exports out of Sri Lanka consist of Guppies, a species which originated in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Sri Lanka and the whole world have changed drastically from the time that these regulations were first enacted and it is crucial that we move with the times.
More recently, there have been many so-called environmentalists accusing our industry of trying to loosen regulations in order to be able to take Sri Lanka’s endemic species out of their natural habitats and then directly export them but that is false.”
“Species straight out of the wild would not be capable of being exported to other countries as they would not pass the stringent standards expected of us; so it is not something that we would engage in,” he said.
Draft regulations are currently being discussed by the Wildlife Department, the biodiversity unit of the Customs Department and several other connected government agencies.
“All we are seeking is regulations that reflect today’s reality and we will also benefit if these regulations ensure that Sri Lanka’s endemic species and habitats are preserved.
At present, our own inherited heritage is being cash cowed in other countries, with no benefit to Sri Lanka and that is what we want to prevent,” Wijayapura stated.
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