The ornamental fish sector is a small but vital part of international fish trade.

The ornamental fish sector is a small but vital part of international fish trade. It contributes positively to rural development in many developing producing countries, and in the major markets for ornamental fish, the retail value is many times that of its trade value with a positive impact throughout the value- chain. The sector presents numerous challenges to operators, ranging from issues related to animal welfare and health to the protection of endangered species. Demand is linked to the health of the overall economy, adding to the cyclical nature of the industry. The report presents an overview of production, trade and markets for ornamental fish species. It provides extensive information on import regulations and requirements in major world markets.

The purpose of this work is to provide an updated and comprehensive overview of the ornamental fish trade, covering numerous aspects, from the nineteenth century naturalists who first discovered ornamental fish species of interest to breeding and reproduction in the various exporting countries, from socio-economic, regulatory and technical factors to techniques concerning the procedures and documentation required for importing ornamental fish from Asia and South America. In exporting countries, the sector of ornamental fish produced and bred in captivity is undergoing rapid growth – a fact supported by both FAO statistics (2007) and data provided by the University of Amazonas in Manaus. In a socio-economic context, this growth is important for the development of rural and poor populations, who can use this sustainable and renewable source of income with a minimal impact on natural ecosystems.

More than 90% of freshwater ornamental fish are bred in captivity, in contrast with marine species. Indeed, most marine species, both fish and invertebrates, are caught directly in their habitats of origin using often unsuitable methods, resulting in the depletion of marine ecosystems and destruction of coral reefs, particularly in Southeast Asia. Therefore, ornamental fish species caught in the wild by fish-producing countries do not always meet the environmental protection and biosecurity requirements of importing countries, which over the years have become increasingly stringent in terms of animal health and well-being. The situation in importing countries is in continuous evolution (most recently, also as a consequence of international economic and political tension). The current economic crisis could lead to a significant drop in the ornamental fish trade – a trade which to date has been subject to rapid growth and development, providing a basis for socio-economic opportunity in various developing countries.

The problems of greatest relevance to operators in the sector relate to health and the interpretation of the many regulations in the field of animal welfare and the protection of endangered species.

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