Spain is considering including guppies, mollies and more on its list of
exotic and invasive species
Spain Mulls Future Bans
BY JOHN DAWES
Spain is in the news again. Just a little over a year ago, the Spanish koi sector was brought to a grinding halt when the country’s Supreme Tribunal’s Court of Con- tentious Administrative Affairs ruled that these colorful carp could no longer be
The reason for this decision was based on the fact that koi belong to the same species as the common carp (Cyprinus carpio), which is one of the fish species included in
Spain’s catalog of exotic and invasive species deemed to pose a threat to its native fauna
and flora. The inclusion of a species in the catalog automatically carries with it a ban on
import, export, sale and even possession.
Spain’s current catalog of species contains the following 21 entries (although, in reality, it also embraces the whole Channa genus consisting of 41 species—presumably,
to include the three Parachanna species, which are not specifically referred to by name):
Alburnus alburnus Bleak
Ameiurus melas Black bullhead
Channa spp. Snakeheads
Cyprinus carpio Common carp (and koi)
Esox lucius Pike
Fundulus heteroclitus Mummichog
Australoheros facetus Chameleon cichlid
Gambusia holbrooki Eastern mosquitofish
Ictalurus punctatus Channel catfish
Lepomis gibbosus Sunfish
Micropterus salmoides Largemouth black bass
Misgurnus anguillicaudatus Dojo
Oncorhynchusmykiss Rainbow trout
Perca fluviatilis Perch
Pseudorasbora parva Pseudorasbora
Pterois volitans Lionfish
Rutilus rutilus Roach
Salvelinus fontinalis Brook trout
Sander lucioperca Zander
Scardinius erythrophthalmus Rudd
Silurus glanis Wels catfish
Even a mere cursory glance at the list will reveal some fundamental flaws and beg
some questions. For example, Gambusia holbrooki is listed. If so, why not G. affinis,
which is so similar as to be only distinguished from it by experts? Then, what’s Pterois
volitans doing on the list? Was it included because of its invasiveness along American
coasts? If so, why not include the extremely similar P. miles as well?
I do not wish to be misinterpreted. I, along with my colleagues in the industry, support the control of invasive alien (exotic) species (IAS). However, we would argue that
IAS lists should be based on good science and be as reasonable and workable as possible.
It is this that is now raising further concerns within the industry, following the announcement that Spain plans to extend its catalog of fish species by adding a further 18
entries, which, in effect, could total more than 260 species, as some of the genera proposed for listing are large (see below). Again, the concern is not specifically about the
intention to expand the list, if the proposed species warrant inclusion, but, rather, about
some of the actual species that are being considered.
If the above list is flawed and controversial, and open to debate, the new proposed
list of additions is much worse. The full proposed listing of fish species is as follows
(but there are also a couple of corals, several shrimps and one reptile penciled in for
Arapaima gigas Arapaima or pirarucu
Carassius spp. Goldfish and its relatives—six species
Cichla spp. Peacock cichlid and its close relatives— 15 species
Colossoma macropomum Pacu
Pterygoplichthys spp. Genus of “pleco” suckermouth catfish with 16 species
Oryziaslatipes Medaka or rice fish
Osphronemus goramy Giant gourami
Pygocentrus nattereri Red-bellied piranha
Siganus spp. Rabbitfishes—genus with 29 species
Hypophthalmichthys spp. Silver carps—three species
Poecilia spp. Genus embracing guppies, mollies and their relatives— 40 species
Potamotrygon falkneri Largespot river stingray
Potamotrygon motoro Motoro or South American freshwater stingray
Ctenopharyngodon idella Grass carp
Hypostomus spp. Genus of “pleco” suckermouth catfish with 148 species
Tanichthys albonubes White Cloud Mountain minnow
Xiphophorus maculatus Southern or moon platy
Xiphophorus hellerii Swordtail
Of course, one would assume that the Spanish authorities are in possession of appropriate, creditable evidence for listing all of these species without exception. We would
also, quite naturally, expect them to be able to present these data for review and discussion with all stakeholders. We, therefore, await such documentation with great interest,
to put it mildly.
The new list raises countless questions. Why, for example, list the goldfish when it
has already been present in Spanish waters for around 400 years (introduced during the
period 1600–1699) and has long been naturalized within the country? Why list whole
genera, irrespective of the characteristics of the individual species concerned? Why
on earth list the giant gourami if—with a temperature range of 20-30 degrees Celsius
( Fishbase.com)—it appears that it can’t survive Spanish winters?
Obviously, space doesn’t allow me to discuss each individual entry, so I’ll concentrate, albeit briefly, on just two genera which are of fundamental importance to the
ornamental aquatic industry: Poecilia and Xiphophorus, i.e., guppies, mollies and their
relatives, along with swordtails, platies and their relatives.
Such listing would, obviously, hit the Spanish sector very hard, but such action could
also have much wider pan-European implications if other EU Member States were to
follow suit. And, in any case, can a coherent case be advanced for including all 40 Poecilia spp., or even one? At the moment, the two Xiphophorus species being mentioned
are X. maculatus—the southern or moon platy—and X. hellerii—the swordtail.
Bearing in mind that the temperature range for X.maculatus is given as 18-25 degrees
Celsius and for X. hellerii it is given as 22-28 degrees Celsius ( Fishbase.com) how can
such inclusions be justified when both species will not be able to survive Spanish winter
temperatures, not even in southern Spain? I live in Spain’s southernmost and warmest
region (Andalucía), and the temperature of the water in my pond drops to 8 degrees
Celsius, or even lower, during January and February every year, meaning that neither
the moon platy nor the swordtail would stand a chance of surviving from one season
to the next.
As far as Poecilia species are concerned, Fishbase.com gives the temperature range
for the guppy (P. reticulata) as 18-28 degrees Celsius. If we take into consideration the
fact that the guppy is one of the hardiest, if not the hardiest, species in the genus, and
that it can’t survive Spanish winter temperatures, this must, surely, cast considerable
doubt on the wisdom of the proposed listings.
Obviously, AEDPAC, the Spanish pet trade association—with support from Ornamental Fish International (OFI)—is holding talks with the Spanish authorities to try
and avoid what could turn out to be a major, disastrous and unwarranted setback for
the Spanish sector and, probably, the whole of the European ornamental aquatic trade.
I will keep our readers posted on progress—or the lack of it!
I would like to thank Paul Bakuwel, OFI secretary general, for alerting me to the existence of the list, and Shane Willis, OFI president, for forwarding me a copy for my
John Dawes is an international ornamental aquatic industry consultant. He has written and/
or edited more than 50 books and has contributed more than 4,000 articles to hobby, trade and
academic publications. He is the editor of the OFI Journal and a consultant to AquaRealm, the
trade show that took place June 2017 in Singapore.
nor their relatives,
the moon or southern
platies, can survive
Mollies—this is a chocolate sailfin lyretail—along with other
Poecilia species, are penciled in for listing in the new catalog.