Biosecurity New Zealand is trying to track down Genetically Modified Tropical Fish that were allowed, by human error, into New Zealand this year.

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) had been alerted by concerned members of the public who noticed the zebra danio fish, a breed popular with ornamental fish enthusiasts, for sale on the internet.

MAF officers then seized and destroyed about 300 zebra danio fish in raids on two Christchurch pet shops as well as two private premises in July 2007.

The importation involved only 210 fish that were sold to shops; however the fish have been bred and sold from the original stock.

MAF Quarantine Service staff had unknowingly allowed the Genetically Modified fish importation, assuming they were dyed, evidently a practice among tropical fish collectors.

However tests in Britain confirmed the zebra danio fish were actually Genetically Modified with a red fluorescent protein to create their unusual bright red/pink color.

Biosecurity New Zealand incursion manager David Yard said they were continuing to trace and humanely destroy the fish that had been sold, either by the original pet shops that received stocks, or by “downstream breeders”.

GM zebra danio fish

Biosecurity New Zealand indicated their importation had not been authorized by the Environmental Risk Management Authority; therefore they were new organisms in breach of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act.

“We are continuing to follow leads, but are also keen to hear from members of the public or fish enthusiasts who may have the fish or know someone who does,” David Yard has said.

These fish are illegal in New Zealand, and people are encouraged to alert Biosecurity New Zealand through the free phone number 0800 809966, should they become aware of the importation, possession or sale of the unauthorized Genetically Modified Zebra Danio fish.

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Genetically Modified Fish Swimming Illegally in New Zealand