The Banggai Cardinal

Banggai CardinalThe Banggai Cardinal, proper name Pterapogon kauderni, is a relatively new fish for the salt water aquarium. The fish in the aquarium is fairly sedentary, but has lovely colouring with black vertical striping on a silver body. The tail is long and forked, again being silver/black. It has become popular and can now be seen in many home aquariums.

I became concerned about this lovely fish as I thought there was a danger that supplies of the fish from the wild would dry up. Then I learned something potentially much more serious – perhaps wild stocks were in jeopardy which made my initial feeling insignificant.

As far as supplies drying up, this isn’t going to happen. First, the fish in captivity is much more helpful than many marine species in that it brings its young into the world much like a freshwater cichlid – it is a mouth brooder. Eventually the young require a defence and this is easily supplied with real sea urchins, the long spine types, or something artificial which is similar and quite easy to accomplish. So some pressure on wild stock is eased a little in that way. Only a little though, as the fish can only produce a few young in each batch. Clownfish, for example, produce far more young. But at least breeding is an option.

The second concern about wild stocks being in jeopardy as said is much more serious. It is estimated (on what basis I don’t know) that circa 700,000 of these fish is collected for the aquarium trade every year. The total population is thought to be in the region of 2,000,000. It doesn’t need a mathematician to work out that the collection ratio is high. The fish come from one small area in the Pacific Ocean and therefore is not widespread.

A proposition had been put to CITES to ban totally the collection of this fish, on the basis that the population could not be sustained with such a high collection ratio. This ban would mean that US and EU imports would cease, though presumably captive breeding would mean the fish would remain available but at a very much increased price.

However, in deliberations CITES have not imposed a ban. This is because the government of the area has agreed to a strict management programme which is to include training of local collectors and the number of fish that can be collected in view of the estimated populations. The aquatic trade is involved, and monitoring is to be carried out by an independent authority. CITES has accepted the fish is at risk, but, as said, have not banned collection.

This is good for the marine hobby. The fish will still be imported, but in smaller numbers, and the number available to the hobby boosted by commercial and private breeding programmes. The local collectors still have their income, or part of it, protected as far as possible. Above all, it appears a commonsense outcome in this day and age when there are many pressures, sometimes misinformed, to ban ‘exploitation’ of the wild.

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