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City defies aqua sale checks

KOLKATA, 17 JUNE: Many shops from narrow lanes to up market malls in the city are doing brisk business by selling banned aquatic animals and products procured from black markets on the city outskirts that are seldom checked by the authorities.
Even after the environment ministry issued a draft guideline ~ Aquarium Fish Breeding & Marketing Rules 2010 ~ on 9 June, to regulate selling and breeding of aquarium fish, many varieties of ornamental fish, newts, live corals and sea fans are seen displayed and sold in aquarium shops.
Not only small shops in Hatibagan, Gouribari and Sealdah area, but also a shop in City Centre, Salt Lake, exhibit live corals and sea fan in a marine aquarium. However, the shopkeeper of the aquarium stall in City Centre refused to disclose the rates of the live corals and anemones.
Another shopkeeper in Burtolla area, in Santoshpur, said that everything is available at a price. Banned products like Parrot fish, Clownfish, Damsels, live corals, anemones, several varieties of sharks and even seahorses can be bought given a delivery time of 15 days. Fish modified by injecting colour in them are also found in such shops. One such variety, tri-colour Parrotfish, comes for Rs 550 to Rs 900. Sea anemones bought from Chennai are sold at the rate of Rs 400-500 while those imported from Bangkok are sold at Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500.
Asian Arowanas or vastu fish, an easily available freshwater fish species, is already on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list and is imported from Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.
“We get all our supplies from Dasnagar, Howrah. The whole area is known for fish sale and almost all varieties of fish and other aquatic organisms are available there. There is no such distributing company. Imported fish are brought there first and then is supplied to the city shops,” said an aquarium shop owner.
Another such place where wide varieties of ornamental fish are available is the market at Galiff Street on Sunday mornings. A member of Kolkata Aquarium Club and frequent visitor to Galiff Street market said that often many banned varieties of fish are sold there. “People buy banned items since they are sold openly. They don’t even know the fish or the coral they are buying is illegal. But we conduct awareness campaigns against artificially coloured fish to make general buyers aware,” he said.
While an official of the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) said that they do not have enough manpower to go and check whether norms are being flouted, the state chief wildlife warden, Mr SB Mandal, said. “How can we conduct a raid without a complaint being lodged against a particular shop,” he asked.
The guidelines also states that no establishment may keep or sell any species that cannot easily be acclimatized to aquarium life, or that may be endangered species due to over-collection. No establishment may keep or sell artificially coloured fish, cyanide-or drug-caught fish, keep fish tank animals in excess of the maximum number permitted for each species per tank.

Soma Basu

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