The European election does not signal the end of the #handsoffmyhobby campaign, says the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association.

The industry’s campaign was launched after seeing the lobbying activities of Eurogroup for Animals in the run-up to the European Parliament elections. The group was collecting MEP pledges to include its ‘animal welfare’ manifesto in their future work. Included within this manifesto was a call to work towards the ‘ban on the import of wild-caught animals and restrict the number of exotic species that can be imported and traded in the EU’.

The Brussels-based group is now intent on following up on those pledges and OATA’s concern remains that any success could affect the sale of tropical marine and freshwater fish, corals and invertebrates across Europe.

“It’s interesting to see that Eurogroup for Animals obviously now intend to ‘call in the chips’ with MEPs. Its #votes4animals campaign has now become #act4animals so it clearly aims to keep campaigning for its manifesto,” said OATA Chief Executive Keith Davenport.

“The political make-up of the new Parliament is an interesting one – particularly following the success of Euro-sceptic groups – which might seem to make these types of issues less likely to succeed. But we can’t lose the momentum and just hope such bans or import limitations won’t come about. We still need to highlight what’s hidden among this animal welfare manifesto because it could have potentially devastating consequences to the hobby.

“We’ll be writing to all the new MEPs once they take up office in July. We all sign up to animal welfare but there is a bigger picture too. The fishkeeping hobby is very popular both in the UK and across Europe. Wild caught animals are not all ‘bad’ and we need to show off the excellent examples where the aquatic industry is contributing to improving the lives of people who live the remotest parts of the world. And we need MEPs to understand that the inclusion of ‘exotic species’ could still encompass popular EU captive-bred fish, birds and reptiles.

“We’ve been really impressed by the speed and commitment shown by hobbyists and businesses in responding to our campaign. We believe most – if not all – MEPs heard about #handsoffmyhobby and it’s been interesting to see MEP responses. We now have something to build on as we take the campaign forward.”

More information about the campaign can be found here.