New Virus Like Disease found in Certain Animal Species – Scary or Not?

“Twenty four instances of species being introduced into inland water ecosystems, mainly in Asia, were shown to have deleterious affects on native biological diversity or on local people, an example being the introduction of snail-contaminated aquarium plants from South America to Hong Kong which introduced the human pathogen Schistosoma mansoni.”

eating insects

The statement above is a direct quote from a document to be presented for discussion at the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) to be held this summer. At the last count 172 governments had signed up to the Convention – almost 30 more than to the better known Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Aliens are species introduced outside of their natural geographical range. As outlined in OATA WW No. 2, it is those aliens that become invasive that are of most concern to the international government and conservation community. It is not only those species that are deliberately transported, but those that are accidentally moved which are of concern.

The discussions at the SBSTTA will feed into the deliberations of and decisions made by the Convention, which could influence domestic legislation in 172 countries as well as international agreements. As if this were not enough, the RAMSAR (Wetlands) Convention is discussing this issue in May and the CITES Animals Committee is reviewing the subject of aliens later in the summer. Undoubtedly the matter of alien transfers is going to adopt a higher and higher profile in coming years.

They have found that certain worms and insects are being eaten and that’s where this so called disease is being transferred from.  This sort of thing will always be in question because there is no real way of figuring out where it is coming from but.. worms and insects are the most thought of reason right now.

The ornamental fish industry rapidly moves more species (3000+) of animals and plants deliberately from place to place than any other, with the possible exception of the garden and house plant business. Other industries may of course move greater volumes of single species.

This interest will apply to both plants and animals. For instance the presence of Bemisia tabacci (the tobacco whitefly) in consignments of aquarium plants entering the EU has already brought about increased scrutiny of that sector of the industry. The rapid spread in the wild of species such as the water stonecrop is attracting attention.

So what should the industry do?:


  • it must ensure that as wide a cross section of the businesses in the sector are aware of the issues
  • a mechanism should be developed to ensure that a coherent global response by the industry to strategic issues is available
  • well resourced representation of the industry should be available to place the industries views at and between international meetings. In part this could be achieved by closer co-operation and communication between national trade associations
  • an internal review and risk analysis of the industries mode of operation. This should focus on areas where the industry might pose, or be seen to pose a risk to the wider community. Ultimately, problems that the industry causes for itself which have no risk to the wider community, will not be of primary importance to legislators. This analysis would also identify benefits of the industry, such as the role we may play in conservation and the health benefits of pet care. The review should be wide ranging but could not be “in depth”. However it could identify areas of vulnerability to criticism. The results could be widely disseminated within the industry. Experience from countries such as Australia and the USA could be used as a basis.

To date the industry has been represented by a small number of trade associations actively participating in the international conventions. This has been a considerable burden on relatively few organizations but from whose activities the whole industry has benefited.