Philip Swindells,
renowned author on
water gardening including
Waterlilies, 1983

Australian Roundup

Philip Swindells
Editor, Australian Water Gardener

Big Koi News Developing

This time of the year in Australia is the quiet season as far as water gardening goes. However, a big news story is developing with far-reaching implications for many Australian water gardeners. Water gardeners who keep koi (Cyprinus carpio) are making positive strides towards securing their hobby in the face of further severe licensing restrictions or possible elimination of koi keeping altogether, even from those states where possessing koi is currently legal. I see this not only as an important step forward for koi keepers, but also for those who keep goldfish, as these too are already subject to constraints; in some quarters it is felt that goldfish may well be the next fish to come under pressure.

A submission, on behalf of thousands of Australian water gardeners and koi keepers, to the Ornamental Fish Working Group by The Australian Koi Association, The Koi Society of Australia and The Koi Society of Western Australia, has had a positive preliminary outcome for which many water gardeners are thankful.  

The proposals of the trio of Australian societies making the submission, supported by other national koi societies from around the world state that:

1. The status of koi should be considered separately from other ornamental fish. 
2. The koi strain of carp should be removed from the proposed noxious fish list and placed in the grey list. 
3. Consideration should be given to a separate classification for koi. 
4. The keeping of koi should be legalised throughout Australia. 
5. The Federal and State Governments should work with leading koi organisations to develop effective self-regulation. 
6. Regulation of koi keeping should focus on the role of koi organisations. 
7. Communications with koi hobbyists in Australia should be improved. 

Currently koi are declared noxious in Victoria, Queensland, the Northern Territory, Tasmania and South Australia. It is only legal to keep koi in garden ponds in New South Wales and Western Australia, and even then with restrictions. In some states where koi are outlawed, enthusiasts have gone outside the law and operate "underground".

The joint Societies' submission asserts that the Consultation Draft of the Ornamental Fish Policy Working Group, takes a broad-brush approach and demonstrates a lack of understanding of the koi strain of carp, and that the national listing of koi as a noxious species is undesirable, impractical and unenforceable. Thus as a first step towards mutual understanding of the koi and koi keeping, they should be removed to the grey list with a view to their eventual re-categorisation.

Following the submission, they are revising the draft Management Strategy. The Working Group acknowledges the fact that, although koi are technically the same species as the noxious European carp, domesticated koi comprise the basis of a widespread industry and a hobby enjoyed by many specialist koi and water gardening enthusiasts in Australia. So whereas common or European carp should remain on the noxious species lists, they are considering placing "domesticated koi" on the grey species list. Hereafter, when a review of the grey species list takes place, an agreed and effective method of distinguishing and separating koi from common carp needs to be developed in consultation with the koi industry and koi societies.    
So for the moment, in those states where koi are legal, water gardeners and koi keepers can breathe a sigh of relief and continue to enjoy their fishes, also with a glimmer of hope that this privilege can be spread to water gardeners across the rest of Australia at some time in the not too distant future.  

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