Fisheries Dept cracks down on cichlid traffickers

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Bangkok – The Department of Fisheries has invoked Section 65 of the 2015 Fisheries Act to ban businesses from importing, exporting, transferring and raising invasive aquatic species, in a bid to save native fish populations and the aquaculture industry from cichlids.

The move came after reports and complaints that illegally imported cichlids have impacted fish farms in the provinces of Samut Songkhram, Samut Prakan, Phetchaburi, Prachaup Khiri Khan, Chumphon and Kanchanaburi. Affected fish farmers said cichlids quickly adapt to natural and man-made waterways. Many have found their way into canals, rivers and fish farms, where they prey on wild and farmed fish species.

Director-General of the Department of Fisheries Adisorn Promthep revealed that the ban had come into effect since March 19. Offenders face a maximum prison sentence of one year, a maximum fine of one million baht, or both.

The department has called on fish farmers and companies that still possess three types of cichlids– Blackchin tilapia, Mayan cichlid and Zebra tilapia– to urgently turn over all their stocks of the invasive species to the department. Members of the public who catch any of the three cichlid species may consume or sell the fish, provided they are killed before retail.

Government organizations or academic institutions that need to breed cichlids for research purposes must get permission from the department beforehand. Those found to have dumped their specimens are subject to a maximum prison sentence of two years, a maximum fine of two million baht, or both.