Home aquarium industry trade association OATA is calling out Defra for a shocking lack of support for businesses on a matter of urgent animal welfare.

Retailers and wholesalers which sell tropical fish are facing unsustainable hikes in energy bills – by as much as 300-800% – yet have failed to make it onto the list of businesses to get additional help from the government under its latest Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS).

OATA has repeatedly highlighted the plight of many small businesses who can do little to mitigate their energy usage because they must keep shop aquariums running 24/7 or the animals they care for will suffer.

“We asked Defra to advocate on behalf of our industry but it’s failed to do so,” said CEO Dominic Whitmee. “We expected more support from this government department whose remit covers animal welfare. Aquatic stores and wholesalers cannot mitigate energy costs as other businesses can by turning down the electricity they use in their business because if they did then fish would suffer.

“We cannot understand why it’s more important to support, for example, manufacturers of knitted and crocheted fabrics and hosiery than businesses which look after live animals such as tropical fish, which are extremely energy hungry. These businesses need urgent priority or we will see fish having to be destroyed and high street businesses failing.

“We know from our members that businesses are facing unsustainable hikes eg 300-800% which will see the closure of many local high street aquatics stores, with huge ramifications for the animals they sell. Just one example we know is a hike in energy bills from £4,000 per month to a staggering £15,000 a month. No business can withstand that kind of hike.”

Despite representations from OATA, Defra has failed to deliver for animal welfare. The trade association is repeating its call for home aquarium businesses to be included on the eligibility list for the Energy and Trade Intensive Industries scheme (ETIIS).