Earlier this week, the results of a 12-month finding by the National Marine Fisheries Service has concluded to propose the beloved Banggai cardinalfish as an endangered species. Together with three species of little-known stony corals, the Banggai cardinalfish, which is a staple of marine aquariums around the world, is slated to be a restricted, protected species, based on what we can only assume is really shoddy science and poorly-informed policy making.
Having poured over the the official review by NMFS, it is clear that the “factors” affecting the Banggai Cardinalfish are about as general as they could possibly be. There is no specific threat to Banggai cardinalfish other than the general degradation of their habitat throughout much of their natural range and we quote, “quantitative data on impacts to cardinalfish populations are lacking“.
The review proposing to list Pterapogon kauderni is filled with lots of assumptions, with innumerable what-ifs such as “Banggai cardinalfish populations spread over large areas can be reduced to isolated remnants” and “Loss of coral reef cover may increase mortality of Banggai cardinalfish recruits”, emphasis ours, not theirs. Yes it’s true that where Banggai Cardinalfish are found, reefs have suffered damage due to cyanide fishing, dynamite fishing, and runoff from clear cut maritime and coastal forests but where in the world is this not happening?
By this metric we could list practically all species of marine life with a range of less than 1000 nautical miles as being endangered, it’s safe to say that nearly the whole planet is in peril. Furthermore it is well known that the Banggai cardinalfish has been introduced into various other regions and locales where it is not naturally found, and in these areas Pterapogon kauderni is an invasive species!
How these factors add up to warrant a specific endangered species listing is beyond us, this kind of policy making from NMFS absolutely drives us up the reef wall. The aquarium trade is responsible for hundreds of thousands of captive bred specimens of Banggai cardinalfish annually, there is no specific threat to banggai cardinalfish in their natural range, there is no qualitative information about their population numbers, and furthermore this species is so adaptable that is is already displacing other species in habitats where it has been introduced.
There will be a 60-day comment period for us all to tell NMFS how much this proposed endangered species ruling sucks, details of which we will share in greater detail in a follow-up post. [Good Catch, NMFS]