Aquariums and Legislation Aquariums et législations

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Aquariums and Legislation

Aquariums et législations

P. Van den Sande

European Union of Aquarium Curators, Eugeen Fahylaan 34/2,

B-2100 Antwerp, Belgium


Legislation and conventions about wildlife conservation, animal welfare, animal trade and Animal keeping are becoming more and more important. International conventions such as the Convention of Washington on the Trade in Endangered Species are also affecting public Aquariums. But are the managers of the Aquariums well informed? What do they know about the existing resolutions, decisions and the animals listed in the appendices? In Europe we have even stronger legislation on the import and transfer of live animals, plants and products. I will briefly mention the resolutions and decisions as well as the approved listing of species during the last Conference of the Parties that took place last April, 2000, in Nairobi.

It is obvious that better communication is needed to inform the Aquarium Community on such legislation. On the other hand, Aquariums should participate in the process of lawmaking. International Zoo and Aquarium organisations are already involved, but on many occasions Aquariums are not consulted or are under represented in these organisations. Do we need another international, maybe even worldwide organisation to fill in this gap and how can we improve communication?


La législation et les conventions internationales sur la protection des animaux, leur bien-être, le commerce et le maintien en captivité deviennent de plus en plus importantes. Des conventions internationales comme la Convention de Washington pour le commerce des espèces menacées concernent également les Aquariums publics. On peut se demander si les responsables d’Aquariums sont bien au courant des législations existantes. Que savent-ils des résolutions adoptées, des décisions prises et des animaux cités dans les appendices de cette Convention ? De plus, il existe en Europe une législation sévère sur l’importation, le tranfert d’animaux vivants, de végétaux et d’autres produits. Les résolutions et décisions adoptées, ainsi que la liste des espèces dressées lors de la dernière réunion du grupe de travail qui s’est tenue en avril 2000 à Nairobi, seront mentionnées ici brièvement.

Il est clair qu’une meilleure communication est aujourd’hui nécessaire pour informer les Aquariums sur la législation. D’un autre côté, les Aquariums pourraient participer au processus d’élaboration de cette législation. Des organisations internationales de Parcs zoologiques et d’Aquariums sont déjà impliquées, mais le plus souvent les Aquariums ne sont pas consultés ou sont mal représentés. Est-il nécessaire, pour combler cette lacune, de créer un autre organisme international, peut-être au niveau mondial et, dans le cas contraire, quelles autres solutions peuvent être envisagées pour améliorer et faciliter la communication et l’information dans ce domaine important ?

International, regional and national legislation and conventions on nature conservation, habitat protection and animal welfare and animal trade have been adopted in past years.
All these laws and conventions will not only affect zoos but will also have some impact on the operations and collection planning of Aquariums. Until today, however, only a limited number of fish species and aquatic invertebrates were listed in the appendices of the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species, better known as the convention of Washington. In the future, however, more fish species will be included in the appendices, as they might be considered as threatened. Several countries have national laws with regard to the import or trade of wild-caught fish species.
Several regional and international organisations such as AZA, EAZA are the representative organisations towards the authorities and governments. Both are registered as Non-Governmental Organisations and, as such, can participate in international conventions such as the Conference of the Parties to Cites (COP). Information on all the decisions dealing with legislation and conventions, affecting the operations of these institutes should be communicated. Aquarium managers, however, have the feeling of not being properly informed or involved in the process of analysing the proposals on legislation and conservation. This is probably due to the fact that Aquariums are not considered to have their own specific identity and specific breeding programs, although they contribute to providing relevant data on the breeding and conservation efforts of public aquaria for endangered species. Last year, under the auspices of UNESCO and as a continuation of the Year of the Oceans, a declaration of intent proposing a New Approach towards the Oceans was adopted and supported by the European Union of Aquarium Curators and Scientific Institutions.
At the last Conference of the Parties a few resolutions and decisions were adopted and they are certainly of interest to Aquarium specialists; I just wanted to inform the participants about these resolutions and decisions.

Resolution Conf.11.9:

Conservation of and trade in freshwater turtles and tortoises in Asia and other regions.

Although this resolution is not so relevant for Aquariums, public Aquariums might help to increase public awareness of the threats posed to freshwater turtles, including harvest and trade.
Resolution Conf.11.10:

Trade in hard corals “tries to simplify the trade in hard corals, especially in coral fragments and coral sand. The conference of the parties to the convention resolves to adopt the working definitions of coral sand, coral fragments, coral rock, live coral and dead coral:


  • Coral sand: fragments of dead coral no larger than 2 mm in diameter. Not identifiable to Genus.

  • Coral fragments: Dead coral material between 2 and 30 mm in diameter, not identifiable to Genus.

  • Coral rock (also live rock and substrate): > than 30 mm in diameter. ‘Live rock’ is the term applied to pieces of coral rock to which are attached live specimens of invertebrate species and coralline algae not included in the Cites appendices and which are transported moist but not in water. Substrate = pieces of coral rock to which are attached invertebrates (species not included in the Cites appendices) and transported in water like live corals. Coral rock is not identifiable to Genus, but recognizable to Order.

  • Dead coral: pieces of coral that are dead when exported but were alive when collected, identifiable to species or Genus

  • Live coral: pieces of live coral transported in water and identifiable to Species or Genus.

Aquarium curators were involved in drafting resolution Conf.11.10.

Further on, a decision was adopted with regard to the conservation of the seahorse and other members of the family of the Syngnathidae. The final text is not yet available.
A working group used documents prepared by the Sea Horse Working Group in which both American and European Aquarium Curators were involved. In the future Aquarium Curators might assist in collecting data on seahorse populations and the Sea Horse Working Group can assist in establishing conservation priorities and actions to secure the status of seahorses and other syngnathids.
These examples illustrate the importance of the presence of Aquarium specialists when reviewing such proposals. This can be achieved through existing bodies such as EAZA and others but under condition that Aquarium specialists have a good representation in the decision making process within these organisations.

Bulletin de l’Institut océanographique, Monaco, n° spécial 20, fascicule 2 (2001)

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