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Friday Fishy News - May 18


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Aquarium fish 'threaten biodiversity'

By Anna Salleh

ABC Science Online

May 18

The millions of exotic fish imported each year to fill Australia's aquaria and ornamental ponds are a ticking time bomb for the continent's biodiversity, say some experts.

And they say Australia will find it hard to protect itself unless international trade laws are reformed.

"There is no doubt that aquarium fish that are being imported into Australia every week carry pathogens that have the potential to cause severe ecological impacts," says the University of Sydney's Professor Richard Whittington, a specialist in the health of aquatic animals.

Whittington and Dr Roger Chong, of Queensland's Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, report on the threat posed by ornamental fish, in an article published online ahead of print in the journal Preventive Veterinary Medicine.

Australia imports around 8 to 10 million ornamental fish each year, says Whittington, and they carry a "plethora of exotic pathogens and parasites recorded and not yet recorded".

Although Australia has some of the most stringent standards for importing ornamental fish, Whittington says they are not good enough.

He points the finger at international trade rules that only allow a country to stop imports of ornamental fish where there is scientific data to back up the ban.

Whittington says the problem is that collecting information on fish diseases is "laborious and expensive" and most of the ornamental fish are imported from developing countries where disease surveillance is limited.

"Those [trade] rules need to be revised to enable us to protect ourselves," he says.

He says Australia needs to be allowed to stop importing fish whose diseases have not been studied.

Quarantine rules fail

According to Biosecurity Australia, imported fish must spend up to 21 days in quarantine.

Fish are inspected on arrival and any diseased fish must be re-exported, destroyed or treated by the importer, a spokesperson says.

But Whittington says this system failed in 2003 when there was an outbreak of a viral disease from imported gourami fish.


The gourami iridovirus killed 90% of Murray cod on a farm in Victoria and could have been devastating if it infected wild Murray cod, which is considered a threatened species, he says.

Fortunately, he says the farm did not discharge its effluent into a river, a common industry practice.

Whittington also says that inspecting fish on arrival into Australia doesn't pick up pathogens that aren't causing symptoms, including those that don't affect ornamental fish but are dangerous to natives.

And inspections won't be much use for new diseases that little is known about, he says.

A spokesperson for Biosecurity Australia says there is currently a review of quarantine policy for ornamental fish with regard to iridoviruses and the organisation is looking closely at Whittington and Chong's paper.

But Whittington says Australian regulators are always "one step behind" the latest threats because they have to wait until a problem occurs before they get the scientific data to prepare a risk analysis.

"It's after the event every time," he says.

Whittington says given the likelihood of problem diseases in imported ornamental fish, Biosecurity Australia should lobby internationally for Australia's right to use the precautionary principle where data is missing.

Biosecurity Australia's spokesperson says the organisation is actively involved in setting international standards for "robust science-based approach to quarantine".

"We would review quarantine policies in light of any new science that may become available," he says.

But he says it is beyond Biosecurity Australia's role to comment on Whittington's call for a precautionary approach.

Long history of concern

Whittington says the Australian government has had concerns about the disease potential of ornamental fish back to the 1980s, after the bacterial pathogen Aeromonas salmonicida entered Australia with imported goldfish from Japan.

The disease spread as goldfish were used as bait and unwanted goldfish were disposed of into waterways, he says. Wild fish and fish on farms were infected and there was concern for Atlantic salmon farms in Tasmania.

His paper also describes how, in the 1980s, fighting fish imported from Singapore caused problems in wild eels and farmed rainbow trout.

"There are examples of 22 species of imported aquarium fish that have set up breeding populations in rivers in Australia," says Whittington.

"These infectious diseases could be the straw that leads to the extinction of endangered species, like the Murray cod."

This American Magazine Cover says it all - Barramundi are quickly becoming a highly-demanded table fish overseas:


Source: Bostonist.com

Fish tales: Anglers survey shows fishermen caught dead bodies.

By Michael Graczyk

Source: Chron.com

May 17

HOUSTON — Some of these fishermen's catches aren't likely to wind up as trophies displayed proudly on a wall.

Or the dinner table.

Nearly 2,500 attendees at a fishing show in Alabama responded to a survey by Houston-based lubricant manufacturer Pennzoil Marine, asking what they'd like to catch and what they actually caught.

More than half, 57 percent, said they fantasize about landing a bass weighing up to 125 pounds. The reality was a bit more unsettling.

Four fishermen reported pulling up a dead body.

Others told of reeling in false teeth, drums, lawn chairs, shopping carts and lawn mowers. Another hooked a refrigerator door and a ladder.

"I was astonished to learn the real truth," Peter Bukaty, Pennzoil brand manager, said of the findings of the company's Hook, Line & Sinker Survey. "People are catching a lot more than just fish."

Among living creatures taking the bait, it's perhaps not surprising to catch frogs, snakes, turtles, eels, alligators and sharks. But fishermen also said they've netted a bobcat, beavers, a peaelkele;';', pelican and owls. Even an octopus.

"We have always heard that anglers can tell the best fish tales," Bukaty said. "What really caught me off guard was the variety of things people are catching."

Fish 'can lower risk of blindness in old age'

By Amy Iggulden


May 15

Eating fish or taking vitamin D supplements can lower the risk of going blind in old age, according to two new studies.

Researchers investigating age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the main cause of blindness in Britain, found that people eating more than two servings of fish rich in Omega-3 fats cut their risk of developing AMD by 40 per cent, according to Dr John Paul SanGiovanni, who carried out the study for the National Eye Institute in America.

Omega-3 fats form compounds that protect the cells in the retina.

AMD can be treated with drugs, but NHS rationing means sufferers have been forced to go without.

A second report today suggested that Vitamin D could protect against AMD. Researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey questioned more than 7,750 people about their lifestyle and food intake.

They concluded that people with the highest levels of vitamin D had a 40 per cent lower risk of going blind.

The study says: "This provides evidence that vitamin D may protect against AMD.

However, there is insufficient evidence of the relationship to make recommendations." Winfried Amoaku, a consultant opthalmologist at Queen's Medical Centre Nottingham and spokesman for the Royal College of Opthalmologists, said: "We know fish oil is protective. I can't think of any scientific reason why vitamin D would offer protection. "

Both studies are published today in the Archives of Opthalmology.

Group seeks protection for rare fish

Source: Chron.com

May 16

BOZEMAN, Montana — Environmentalists continue the fight to secure federal protection for the fluvial arctic grayling. Several groups and individuals gave the federal government official notice Tuesday that they will return to court to seek protection for the rare fish.

Last month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruled the grayling did not deserve federal protection, although the agency since 1994 had maintained the fish was in trouble and deserved listing.

The reversal was due to political pressure from the Bush administration, according to those who declared their intent to sue, including the Center for Biological Diversity; Western Wildlands Project; Pat Munday, president of the Butte-based Grayling Restoration Alliance; and author and environmentalist George Wuerthner.

They blame Julie MacDonald, former deputy assistant secretary of the Interior, who recently resigned after accusations that she interfered with government scientists and leaked sensitive information to industry groups fighting the listing of different species.

Scientists and administrators in FWS field offices had recommended listing the grayling, according to Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The decision not to list came from Washington, D.C., he said.

The litigants charge FWS decided that extinction of the Montana grayling population is insignificant.

Doug Peterson, an FWS fisheries biologist in Helena who has been working on grayling issues, declined to comment on the accusations, other than to say the lawsuit wasn't a surprise.

South of the Canadian border, fluvial, or river-dwelling grayling, live only in a roughly 80-mile stretch of the Big Hole River in southwestern Montana. It is the rarest fish in Montana except for the pallid sturgeon, which is a listed species in eastern Montana.


Edited by Flattieman
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