New IATA Live Animal Regulations

Since transport is vital to the industry, it is with only a hint of apology I return to the subject of the IATA Live Animal Regulations.

As outlined in the first OATA Worldwide newsletter container requirements No. 51 and 52 apply to fish. 51 describes the conditions for transporting tropical fish and small coldwater fish while 52 applies to the movement of larger specimens of carp, sturgeon and the like.

Some of the conditions seem ripe for bringing up to date. Thus tropical fish and small coldwater fish must be packed to survive for 48 hours from the time of acceptance by the airline whether the anticipated journey time is eight hours or forty seven hours. Also despite advances in packing technology, fish are not to be accepted by airlines where the journey time exceeds 48 hours.

Large koi in contrast need only be packed for 18 hours survival. There is no constraint on airlines accepting these fish for any length of journey.

Are the IATA Guidelines appropriate? What are your views? Let us know by E-mail.

Aliens and Risk Assessment

The risks posed by aliens are a hot topic for consideration in many international meetings. The Convention on Biodiversity (signed by over 170 governments), for instance, will have a special work program starting this summer. But a lot of time will not be spent discussing invaders from Mars but the movement of species (animals, plants, bacteria, viruses etc.) around the world to places where they would not occur naturally. As an industry we possibly move more individuals of more species around the world than any other. Thus potentially we may face greater scrutiny than our economic size would otherwise dictate.

Aliens are any species that is moved out of their natural range. When this happens there are a number of possible outcomes.

  1. The individuals transferred just die. This could be because of a number of reasons for instance the habitat may be entirely unsuitable or the number of specimens introduced are insufficient to create a successful breeding colony.
  2. The species may colonise the area to which it has been introduced but not spread any further.
  3. The species thrives and rapidly colonises a wide area. It is then termed an invasive species. Examples of invasive aliens include the zebra mussel in North America, the common carp in Australia, koi in New Zealand and the seaweed Caleurpa sps. in the Mediterranean.

Of most concern are the invasive species. However predicting with absolute certainty species which will become invasive is very difficult.


Risk analysis

Much time is now being spent by agencies in “Risk Analysis”. That is trying estimate the risk of an animal, plant, bacteria or virus causing problems in areas to which it might be introduced.

It must be said at the outset that the only way to ensure “no-risk” is ban the movement of all materials. This would be impossible since materials move around the world in the oddest of places e.g. ballast water in ships, frogs in consignments of bananas, beetles in the bark on timber, monkeys in the landing gear of planes (that’s not a joke), and substantial trade would be brought to a halt.

Governments generally do not operate a “no-risk” policy but adopt policies which limit the practical risks associated with the movement of biological material. A risk assessment cannot determine whether a risk is acceptable just how great it is. Ultimately a political decision on what level of risk is acceptable must be made by elected governments – in line (hopefully) with internationally recognised standards.

The risk of particular movements will vary depending on many factors. Thus in the case of fish, the chances of most tropical fish (and any associated pathogens) becoming established in the wild in temperate north America or Europe are virtually zero. Even if they survive in the summer they couldn’t survive the winter.

Since “risk analyses” will be, or already are being undertaken, on the industry further details of how and in what contexts they will be applied to the industry will covered in later Newsletters.