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High quality standards for ornamental fish

Published:Monday | September 15, 2014 | 11:11 PMChristopher Serju
Christopher Serju photo Conrad English is hooked on ornamental fish and is unapologetic about his love for the life-long hobby he is working to transform into a profitable business.
Christopher Serju photo Conrad English is convinced that the therapeutic impact of watching and interacting with ornamental fish can have a calming effecton even the most troubled mind.
Christopher Serju photo Charmaine Jones pays close attention as her son Christopher McFarlane speaks about the interest of community members in the ornamental fish project. Jones was impressed with how well McFarlane has been focused on the business and especially his dedication to maintaining the high phyto-sanitary standards necessary for export markets.
Christopher Serju photo This pair of Golden Sevrom raised by Christopher McFarlane is among his favourites.
Christopher Serju photo Paulette Johnson is always happy when tending to her ornamental fish but admits her brother is the expert in the family.

THE LOCAL pet-fish trade, in which small fish usually harvested from streams and rivers were kept in bottles atop furniture in the living room where they served, for the most part, as conversation pieces, has come a long way.

From bottles to aquariums, on to recirculation systems complete with complex piping systems linked to external pumps, fish tanks have also seen improvements.

Accurate recordkeeping is now also an integral aspect of ornamental fishing ? serious ornamental fishing, that is, for the export market.

It is for this reason that the Veterinary Division in the Ministry of Agriculture plays a lead role in the local ornamental fish industry and which Conrad English understands.

visual evaluation

For each batch of fish to be exported, field officers from The Competitiveness Company must visit and do a visual evaluation of their health status.

?They would check the water quality first and look around how the area stay, because at the end of the day, this is going to overseas and one bad fish can shut down the company,? he told The Gleaner. ?So they would come and look at how the fish them moving, look at the gills to see if any have open gills, look to see if there is any sign of disease like gill rot ? that is when the fin start rotten off.?

Only when the field officers are satisfied that all seems well do they sit down to check off the fish for export. But according to English, the team will take a sample of about five fish from each batch which will be dissected and further tested for signs of disease.

With Jamaica exporting to Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States and looking to widen its market, the Veterinary Division is mandated to verify that the fish were bred under hygienic conditions.

?We have to visit them to ensure that they comply with certain guidelines in terms of hygiene and health because these ornamental fish can have parasites and diseases,? Dr Osbil Watson told The Gleaner in an earlier interview. ?[We] also certify to the status of the country in general in relation to aquatic animal health. All of that is necessary for certification,? the island?s chief veterinary officer advised.