Malaysian authorities have seized a shipment of Asian arowanas on their way to Singapore because they did not contain identification microchips.
Asian arowana, Scleropages formosus, are endangered in the wild and international trade is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
All of the fish sold in the aquarium trade are bred in captivity, so to distinguish the fish from illegal wild specimens they must be microchipped and officially certified as captive-bred stocks before being sold.
Malaysia's The Star says that Arab businessman Essam Al-Bala, who lives in Singapore and runs Majestic Fish Trading in Malaysia, had a shipment of 35 arowana seized at New Year after scans by Fisheries Department officials showed that the arowana were not microchip tagged.
The report says that 332 of the other arowana he was importing did get through the checks as they were found in contain the embedded identification chips.
Fauzidah Othman, the Head of the Fisheries Department Quarantine and Fish Health Unit told The Star that it was illegal to import unchipped arowanas:
"Each must have a serial number. Some of the 35 had chips, but the ID numbers did not match those declared in the inventory list.
"Only 16 are still alive. The rest did not survive the trip. Arowana are sensitive fish."
Mr Al-Bala told was reported by The Star as saying that he did not bring in 332 fish at all:
"I brought in between 270 and 280 fish but only 165 arrived at my fish farm in Gelang Patah alive, while 29 died from negligence.
"Another 35 were seized. Where are the remaining 40-plus fish?"
Asian arowana can sell for large sums of money, especially in the Far East, where they are often considered as status symbols and good luck charms.