The use of cyanide to catch ornamental fish for aquariums, but more particularly for the live food fish trade, is an acknowledged problem that has no place in the industry. And OATA would wholeheartedly welcome a robust test that would help to stamp out this unacceptable practice.

The research from Portugal’s University of Aveiro to develop a new test for cyanide use is certainly interesting but we feel it is at the start of this process to find an acceptable and robust way to check for cyanide in fish, rather than the final solution.

The test involved transferring a fish into artificial seawater, leaving it long enough to pass waste, and then sampling the water for a specific by-product of cyanide. But this Msc project only involved testing 27 fish, including controls, so it was a very small sample.

The test was also looking for traces of thiocyanate in the water, which can bio-accumulate. So our concern is that possible background environmental cyanide – from pollution such as mining or from cyanide use in the locality for capturing food fish – could mean a positive reading that has no relevance to the way the ornamental fish for live export were captured.

There is a lot at stake with this kind of test – not least the potential to turn individual fishermen, source areas or, if used in destination countries, importers into criminals. So it’s vital any test is well-researched and robust.

This piece of research is another promising start. We understand a PhD project is to follow which will hopefully examine these issues in much greater depth. We certainly welcome that and look forward to the results of that further research.

The research is available to read here.