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Bengal ornamental fish sales hit by 70 per cent following new rules

Tuesday - June 20, 2017 10:24 pm , Category : BUSINESS

Kolkata June 20 (IANS) A 70 per cent drop in the sale of ornamental fish has been observed in West Bengal in the last 25 days following the notification of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Aquarium and Fish Tank Animals Shop) Rules 2017 fish traders said on Tuesday.

West Bengal accounts for 75 to 80 per cent of ornamental fish production in India and is the major supplier to other states as well as to about 12 to 14 countries including Thailand France and Singapore.

But hobbyists and fish farmers have been panicking over the new guidelines which include clauses on certificate of registration from the State Animal Welfare Board for Rs 5 000 per year employing a fisheries veterinarian or a fisheries expert 24X7 prohibition on placing fish tanks in direct sunlight or near radiators and where rainwater can enter.

They are asking all sorts of questions after the notification came in on May 27. As much as 70 per cent of usual sales are down. We have lost business of Rs 10 lakh. Bengal is the largest producer of ornamental fish in India and if this continues we will be forced to take legal steps Sunirmal Das secretary of the West Bengal Ornamental Fish Association (WBOFA) told IANS.

The body of ornamental fish farmers was assembled in response to the notification and will be registered soon said Das.

So far it has discussed the issue with state Fisheries Department and other stakeholders.

It seems the Centre did not consult the stakeholders. The state Fisheries Department was not in the know Das said adding that the guidelines are impossible to adhere to.

For example a fish farmer earns about Rs 1 lakh per year. To follow the rule on employing an expert full time that person has to actually employ two people for 24X7. That means it will set him back by Rs 20 lakh a year. This is impossible he argued.

Similarly he pointed out sunlight is essential for the development of variety of bright pigmentation of ornamental species while rainwater is recommended by experts for egg-binding.

Most importantly if one follows the guidelines then 95 per cent of popular marine fish are banned from being kept in aquariums and being sold. This includes some varieties of clown fish angle fish eels all octopus species groupies parrot fish etc.

How will the trade flourish? Eels and octopus are kept in tanks before consumption. So how will consumers eat them? Will they directly eat them from sea? We have no objection to the ban on whales dolphins etc Das asked.

He said domestic trade from Bengal alone amounts to Rs 10 crore per year while of the total export figure of $1.5 million from India Bengal contributes about $1 million.

Das also highlighted the rules also say no aquarium or fish shop shall display or sell bowls for keeping fish tank animals; or fish tanks with a capacity of less than 13 gallons or 60 litres of water for keeping fish tank animals.

Usually people especially children prefer the bowls and smaller tanks. How can we expect them to purchase a 60 litre tank for Rs 1 000 added Das.

--IANS
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