Australia: Tilapia possession in Queensland can now cost $220,000

Any aquaponics grower caught using declared noxious fish, such as tilapia, in Queensland, Australia, could now be penalised up to $220,000.

Aquaponics growers seeking what they think might be “cheap native fish” from a local creek to stock in their tanks, instead of fish bought from a registered nursery, are thus now being idiotic.

The fine increase is a clear warning from the Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney General. Fisheries Queensland, which was consulted by Aquaponics Network Australia, told ANA that so far nobody has been fined the full amount. “Do not be the first!” is the clear direction.

Tilapia is an introduced pest species that badly affect native fish species by competing for habitat and food, behaving aggressively and disturbing aquatic vegetation.

In its northern Australia equivalent of the European Carp stupidly introduced into southern Queensland in the 1970s – which now has spread widely and aggressively in temperate climate streams – destroying much native fish habitat and formerly substantial inland fisheries.

Carp species now exists in 20 of Queensland’s 76 catchments.
Once tilapia enter flowing water bodies such as a creek or river, they are almost impossible to eradicate (a fact which some Queensland anglers use –illogically - to deride official action as happening “after the horse has bolted”).
More than 90% of all pest fish incursions, including tilapia, are the result of human assisted translocation, such as being used as live bait. The Queensland Government currently works with a number of community groups to educate fishers on how to identify pest fish and stop the spread. Aquaponics Network Australia has now joined in.

Key steps you can take to stop the spread of tilapia are:
  • Always buy fish to stock in an aquaponics tank only from a reputable, registered fish nursery.
  • Don’t move live fish between waterways.
  • Don’t use pest fish species – dead or alive – as bait or as fish food.
  • Don’t empty aquaponics tanks, aquariums, dams or ponds into waterways or outlets that flow into waterways (a substantial sand trap is probably the best installation for any waste water discharge from aquaponics fish tanks) drains – if the water cannot be better used on garden bed soils).
  • Don’t stock dams or ornamental ponds with pest fish.
  • Don’t return catches of pest fish to the water – kill the fish humanely and either bury them or put them in a bin away from the waterway.
Consuming or using tilapia in any way, or keeping whole or any parts of such a pest fish, is illegal and the penalties of up to $220,000 now apply as a sensible warning about how serious is the problem in Australia. . Fisheries Queensland said: “It’s critical to the health of our waterways that the public helps by identifying and reporting possible pest fish sightings, particularly in remote areas. Sightings of suspected pest fish should be reported to Fisheries Queensland on 13 25 23 or online via www.fisheries.qld.gov.au.

Source: Aquaponics Network Australia newsletter

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