The Banggai Cardinalfish, Pterapogon kauderni, has become the first saltwater aquarium fish to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. The new ‘threatened’ species status of the banggai cardinalfish does not yet have an effect on trading or possessing this popular fish.
However now that it the Banggai Cardinalfish is listed under the Endangered Species Act, it does put thje fish in line for being ‘fast-tracked’ to endangered status, a ruling which could completely limit or prohibit every aspect of owning, breeding or selling this fish in the aquarium hobby. Unfortunately, the ruling comes from data and proposals that are over a decade old by now.
When the banggai cardinalfish was first evaluated by the IUCN for conservation status, between 2001 and 2004 banggai’s were HOT and the aquarium hobby was booming, and so this fish was harvested in prodigious quantities from its natural range. However in the intervening decade the pressure on wild populations has been relieved by introduced populations throughout Indonesia, as well as lots of distributed captive production in aquarium circles, and a very prolific fish farm in Thailand which intensively cultures this fish to the tune of more than 100,000 specimens exported each year.
Despite these changes to the originally perceived threats to Pterapogon kauderni, the National Marine Fisheries Service does acknowledge that the aquarium industry is not as much of a threat to wild banggai cardinalfish as it once was. But environmental degradation of this fish’s natural habitat together with other effects still warrants this listing.
We’ve written at length about our thoughts regarding the NMFS listing non-US fish under US legislation, and how little sense this ruling makes now. Nevertheless, the law of the land must be respected and we just hope that more rational measures could be taken to conserve this species in the wild, rather than just legislating endangered species into existence.
With the prolific reproduction rate of this species under some conditions, it seems like more practical steps could be taken to preserve this species, such as a moratorium on collecting wild fish. Already major retailers like PetCo only sell captive raised and farmed specimens of banggai cardinalfish – perhaps a wider voluntary suspension of selling wild specimens could go a long to prevent further legislation of the banggai and other fish in the future. [Good Catch]