2 April 2014

More than half of UK MEPs have been contacted about the #handsofmyhobby campaign in its first month, the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA) estimates.

OATA called on those working in the ornamental fish industry and hobbyists who love their aquariums to write to their local MEP in the run-up to the European elections, which happen on 22 May in the UK. Other pet-keeping groups, from reptiles to birds, also followed suit.

Through emails and posts on OATA’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, the trade association has collated information about people’s activities to estimate that 39 MEPs could have been contacted so far.

But with just seven weeks to go until the European elections, OATA’s chief executive Keith Davenport says it’s vital to keep up the pressure on MEPs after two more signed the Eurogroup for Animals’ pledge.

So far, the industry body has seen the replies of 12 MEPs which show a mix of responses. Those who have signed the Eurogroup for Animals Votes for Animal pledge, which includes a call to work towards a ban on the import of wild caught and exotic species, are standing by their signature, although some acknowledge that they did not think it would cover fish. Other MEPs have confirmed they will not be signing the pledge.

“By our estimates, it looks as if nearly 40 of the 73 UK MEPs have had some kind of correspondence from hobbyists or people working in the industry which is fantastic and we have to say thanks for such a speedy and supportive response to our campaign,” said OATA Chief Executive Keith Davenport.

“But the more the merrier, so if you feel strongly about this and haven’t been in touch with your MEP yet please take some time to drop them an email because we need to keep up the pressure. The more constituents that contact them – particularly as they campaign for your vote in the May elections – the more impact this campaign will have.

“It’s vital we raise awareness about what it means to sign up to this Eurogroup for Animals pledge. Its inclusion of ‘exotic species’ is particularly worrying. Many popular aquarium fish – such as guppies, clownfish and even goldfish – are captive bred. But we’re concerned that might not ‘save’ them for the provisions of this pledge because they’d still be classed as ‘exotic’ since they’re not native to Europe.

“It’s been interesting to see the responses of MEPs who’ve signed the pledge because it doesn’t look as if they all realise how it could affect ornamental fish. We’ve even seen one response that went on about African lions. But we’re really keen to build up a full picture of what MEPs are saying so if you’d had a response please email it to us at info@ornamentalfish.org.”

The responses received so far have been captured in a document that can be read here.

The trade association will also be writing to all UK MEPs explaining its position.