Hands off my hobby. Let's tell UK political parties fish make good pets too.

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The hobby of keeping ornamental fish, corals and invertebrates like shrimps and snails is increasingly coming under attack from animal campaign groups which want to ban wildlife, such as tropical freshwater and marine fish, from being kept as pets. Many of their campaigns focus on introducing bans on the importation and sale of wild caught and exotic species. Any such ban would cover almost all of the ornamental fish kept by hobbyists in the UK. The Scottish Government has already announced its intention to review the exotic pet trade after meeting with OneKind. So it seems likely similar reviews could be introduced in other parts of the UK.

It's worth remembering that ‘exotic species’ means anything not native to the UK - which would even cover popular fish that are captive-bred in Europe. And of course most marine fish and coral are wild caught.

If these groups are successful in their campaigns it would spell the end for keeping tropical freshwater and marine fish, as well as the hard and soft corals, invertebrates and plants enjoyed by so many in their aquariums. The only fish that might be left for the hobby would be goldfish, koi and golden orfe. But this would not be enough to keep the industry going. While fish probably account for just under half of sales, without them there's no need for tanks, filters, food, medicines, plants etc. No fish, no trade. It would spell the end to the ornamental fish-keeping hobby in the UK.

In the run-up to the General Election in May 2015, we want all UK political parties to recognise that keeping fish is just as acceptable as having a dog, cat, rabbit or guinea pig as a pet and we want them to promise to oppose any future ban on exotic and wild caught species that would affect ornamental fish-keeping.

Almost one in 10 households have an aquarium so ornamental fishkeeping is not just a fantastic hobby that brings great pleasure and enjoyment. It also supports the UK economy by employing around 10,000 people and by hobbyists spending about £400 million on the hobby every year creating specialised environments in their aquariums. Plus it brings important environmental and economic benefits to remote communities across the world who supply the fish.

All this could disappear if campaigning to ban the import or sale of exotic species like ornamental fish by these groups were ever to be successful. So let’s say Hands Off My Hobby and ask UK political parties to safeguard the future of this popular pastime by recognising that fish make good pets too.

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