NEWS: TRADE CONTINUES DESPITE THREATENED CONSERVATION STATUS

News: Trade Continues Despite Threatened Conservation Status
Updated
A recent paper published by the Conservation Research Group and the IUCN shows that more than 30 threatened species endemic to India are still being regularly exported, despite their conservation status.
Even if you haven’t studied biology or zoology, you are probably familiar with the term “endangered”. The term “endangered” is part of a classification used by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and National Resources (IUCN) to describe the level of threat to the population of any given species. Some of the most commonly identified endangered species include the black rhino, the leatherback turtle, the Asian elephant and the giant panda. What you may not realize, however, is that the endangered species list extends to all types of animals – including freshwater fish. In this article you will learn about several species of endangered freshwater fish and how trade in these species continues despite their conservation status.
 
Global Trade in Aquarium Fish
 
The global aquarium trade is extremely large and wide-reaching. It is estimated that the global trade in freshwater fish alone is worth $15 to $30 billion each year. While many companies have turned to captive breeding of popular species, many are still taken from the wild – this particularly effects rare and endemic species. A paper recently published by the Conservation Research Group, along with members of the IUCN SSC Freshwater Fish Specialist Group, revealed that 30 species of freshwater fish endemic to India are traded globally, despite having been assigned a threatened conservation status by the IUCN. The term “endemic” is used to refer to a species that is only found in a particular area – this may be something as large as a country or as small as a specific body of water.
 
This paper was released after a study was conducted regarding the availability of threatened species in retail pet shops around the globe. It became evident that not only are several endangered species still being traded, but nearly 1/3 of the freshwater fish exported from India are listed as Vulnerable or Endangered by the IUCN. The IUCN exists to help protect endangered species, so you may wonder why this is the case. The reality is that there are few regulations in place to actually enforce and protect the conservation status of these endangered species. Export processes do not require companies to list the particular species of fish nor do they require that the location of capture be listed. Many companies do not even bother to differentiate between their stock, listing them only as “live ornamental fish.”
 
Endemic Species
 
The hotspots for freshwater fish collection in India are the three major rivers found in the Western Ghats. These rivers are: the Godavari, the Krishna and the Kaveri. Some of the species endemic to India include:
 
·         Red Canarese Barb (Hypselobarbus thomassi)
·         Ganges Shark (Glyphis gangeticus)
·         Narrowsnout Sawfish (Pristis zijsron)
·         Grey Goby (Acentrogobius giseus)
·         Bowany Barb (Barbodes bovanicus)
·         Canatic Carp (Barbodes carnaticus)
·         Western Ghat Loach (Bhavania australis)
·         Zebra loach (Botia striata)
·         Malabar Pufferfish (Carinotetraodon travancoricus)
·         Dadio (Chela dadiburjori)
·         Whitley Loach (Enobarbus maculatus)
·         Canara Pearlspot (Etroplus canarensis)
·         Garo Spineless Eel (Garo khajuriai)
·         Anamalai Loach (Homaloptera montana)
·         Indian Blind Catfish (Horaglanis krishnai)
·         Malabar Ricefish (Moraichthys setnai)
·         Cumuca Barb (Hypselobarbus curmuca)
·         Kolus (Hypselobarbus kolus)
·         Kohri Barb (Hypselobarbus micropogon)

Critically Endangered Species
 
Despite restrictions, several freshwater species labeled by the IUCN as Critically Endangered continue to be caught and sold for the aquarium hobby. The fact that these species are rare or threatened makes them that much more appealing to hobbyists. Unfortunately, there is no legal framework in place to protect these fish in India, where the collection for the aquarium trade is almost entirely unregulated. Additionally, there is little quantitative data available regarding the number and species exported – in many cases, particular species names are not mentioned at all. In addition to collection for the aquarium trade, these threatened species also experience environmental hazards including habitat loss due to sand mining, dam construction and pollution.
 
Some efforts have been made to restrict the export and sale of certain threatened species. In 2008, the Department of Fisheries in southern India issued a government order to restrict the collection and import of the Red Lined Torpedo Barb (Puntius denisonii). Unfortunately, this order was issued and the regulations developed with very little scientific input. As a result, the regulations do little to actually protect the species. Between 2005 and 2012, nearly 90,000 Red Lined Torpedo Barbs were collected and exported – during their breeding season, no less.
 
Given this information, perhaps you will be more careful next time you go to stock your tank. Take a little time to research the species you are considering to be sure that, in purchasing them, you won’t be supporting the exploitation of an endangered species. For more information about threatened and endangered species, visit the IUCN’s website at www.IUCNredlist.org.  
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