CITES Draft Decisions Give Banggai Cardinalfish a Reprieve

October 20, 2016 in General Banggai Info, Slideshow

The dazzling Banggai Cardinalfish still poses a dilemma for those who follow its populations in a remote archipelago in Indonesia. Image: Colin Foord.

The dazzling Banggai Cardinalfish still poses a dilemma for those who follow its populations in a remote archipelago in Indonesia. Image: Colin Foord.

A New Chapter for Indonesia and the Pterapogon kauderni fishery?

by Ret Talbot

originally published Oct. 5, 2016, via the Good Catch Blog

Over the past several days, I have been reporting on the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). My focus has been primarily on the marine species proposed for regulation under CITES with an emphasis on the Banggai Cardinalfish, a species I have covered extensively here and elsewhere. Now that CoP17 is over, a new chapter begins for the Banggai Cardinalfish, and the following is really the beginning of that story.

On Monday, the European Union withdrew its proposal to list the Banggai Cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni) under CITES Appendix II.

The withdrawal occurred following Indonesia’s acceptance of a series of draft decisions, which are outlined below. On Tuesday, during the CoP17 plenary session, the withdrawal and the draft decisions were officially adopted (see video above), beginning another chance for Indonesia (and the aquarium trade) to put in place effective reforms for conservation and sustainable harvest of the species.

Species included on Appendix II are those that, although currently not threatened with extinction, may become so without trade controls. The inclusion of the Banggai Cardinalfish on Appendix II was supported by the CITES Secretariat, as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United States and numerous other Parties, NGOs and observers who believe the Banggai Cardinalfish meets the criteria for inclusion.

The proposal was opposed by Indonesia, the only range state for the species, as well as by the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) and Kuwait. Aquarium trade associations also generally opposed the proposal, although Ornamental Fish International (OFI), which had a representative present at CoP17, said “we are open to possible new information that could emerge during the CoP.”

CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and organisms listed are subject to many trade and possession restrictions. A listing for the Banggai Cardinalfish could have led to a ban on its import into the EU.

CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and organisms listed are subject to many trade and possession restrictions. A listing for the Banggai Cardinalfish could have led to a ban on its import into the EU.

Of the 62 proposals considered at CoP17, only six, including the proposal to include the Banggai Cardinalfish, were withdrawn.

The final adopted draft decisions agreed to by Indonesia are as follows:

Directed to Indonesia

  • 17.X1 Indonesia should implement conservation and management measures to ensure the sustainability of international trade in Pterapogon kauderni, and report progress on these measures to the Animals Committee at its 30th meeting (possibly in mid-2018).

Directed to the Secretariat

  • 17.X2 Subject to external funding, the Secretariat shall commission a study to assess the impact of international trade on the conservation status of Pterapogon kauderni and to advise on suitable conservation and management measures, as appropriate.
  • 17.X3 The Secretariat shall share the results of the study as referred to under decision 17.X2 with the Animals Committee at its 30th meeting.
Fishing dock in the Banggai Islands where the Indonesian government has struggled to enforce fishery regulations. Image: Ret Talbot.

Fishing dock in the Banggai Islands where the Indonesian government has struggled to enforce fishery regulations. Image: Ret Talbot.

Directed to the Animal Committee

  • 17.X4 The Animals Committee shall, at its 30th meeting, review the progress report submitted by Indonesia as referred to under Decision 17.X1, as well as the results of the study as referred to under Decision 17.X2, and make its recommendations to the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties.

Directed to donor Parties and other relevant organizations

  • 17.X5 Donor Parties and other relevant organizations, including FAO, are invited and encouraged to provide support to Indonesia and to the Secretariat for the purpose of implementing Decisions 17.X1 to 17.X3.

The 30th meeting of the CITES Animals Committee will likely be held during the spring or summer of 2018. The role of the Animals Committee is to provide technical support to decision-making regarding species of animals that are subject to CITES trade controls. The members of the Animals Committee represent the six major geographical regions (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Central and South America and the Caribbean, and Oceania) as well as one specialist on nomenclature. Members are elected at the CoP, with the number of regional representatives weighted according to the number of member nations or “parties” within each region and according to the regional distribution of biodiversity. COP18 will be held in 2019 in Sri Lanka.

Mixed Reactions to Decision

In a statement posted to its Facebook page, OFI praised the EU’s decision to withdraw its proposal to include the Banggai Cardinalfish on Appendix II and instead to propose the draft decisions listed above.

OFI…wholeheartedly supports the agreement that was adopted yesterday; to give Indonesia the possibility to implement conservation and management measures, with the support of the CITES Secretariat, Parties and organisations, including the FAO, in the time leading up to the 30th meeting of the CITES Animals Committee.

Svein A. Fosså, an aquarium and pet trade consultant who represented OFI at CoP17 and who is also a longstanding observer in Animals Committee meetings, was pleased with the EU’s action and the draft decisions, saying “We could hardly have expected a better outcome, for the species, for the trade and for the livelihoods in Indonesia.”

It should be noted that many in favor of the withdrawal also note the precarious nature of the species’ conservation status and even acknowledge, as the FAO does, that it meets the criteria for inclusion on Appendix II. Nonetheless, they feel a listing was not the right path forward and that the draft decisions listed above are a much better outcome than forcing a CITES listing on the only range country despite its strenuous opposition.

Wild Pterapogon kauderni: Aquarists now can choose between captive bred and wild-collected Banggai Cardinalfish, the latter usually a lower prices. Image: Shutterstock.

Wild Pterapogon kauderni: Aquarists now can choose between captive bred and wild-collected Banggai Cardinalfish, the latter usually a lower prices. Image: Shutterstock.

Not everyone was as optimistic though.

“I would say that the fact that in eight years there has not been significant improvements to stocks makes me wonder about the ability for us to help this species recover [without a CITES listing],” says Michael Tlusty of the New England Aquarium in Boston. Tlusty’s project to better monitor the aquarium trade is a winner in this year’s Wildlife Tech Challenge. “Are we preserving the status quo, or will the call for more effort and data to understand this species actually move the needle towards improvement?” Tlusty’s concerns are concerns that were also expressed by the US delegate in support of the EU proposal to grant the Banggai Cardinalfish CITES protection. As the US delegate made clear prior to the EU withdrawing its proposal, Indonesia’s efforts to better manage the species to date have proven largely ineffective.

During CoP14 in 2007, the US withdrew its own proposal to include the Banggai Cardinalfish on Appendix II, citing Indonesia’s renewed commitment at that time to better managing the trade in the species. “At that time, we were convinced that the national conservation management plan presented by Indonesia would help stem the decline of this species,” the US delegate said on Monday. “However, since then, the national conservation measures seem to be insufficient, and CITES regulation would compliment the measures that are in place by Indonesia.”

The US delegate went on to note that in the intervening years since the US withdrew its own proposal in 2007, the conservation status of the Banggai Cardinalfish under Indonesia’s management has not improved. “We would note that the FAO Expert Advisory Panel…since the first evaluation, has found now that local extinction has occurred at five sites across the Banggai Archipelago with an additional seven sites where there are declines in abundance.” [View the full intervention by the US in support of the EU proposal in the video below.]

While they may differ in their degree of optimism, both Fosså and Tlusty are hopeful that the draft decisions put in place at CoP14 will indeed move the needle in terms of the conservation status of the species. Although we likely won’t know the results until the Animals Committee reviews the progress report submitted by Indonesia, as well as the results of the study commissioned by the Secretariat regarding the conservation status of the species, there is some comfort in the fact that there is now at least an international framework with set deadlines in place. Perhaps it will insure that we don’t see a hat trick at CoP18 insofar as withdrawals of Banggai Cardinalfish proposals are concerned.

CORRECTION: An earlier draft of this entry said Svein A. Fosså sits on the Animals Committee. Fosså is an observer in Animals Committee meetings, but not a formal member. He intends to be present at AC30.

2016 CITES Results for Aquarium Fish and Inverts

October 20, 2016 in General Banggai Info, Slideshow

As originally published at Reef2Rainforest.com

Clarion Angelfish, Holacanthus clarionensis, is a somewhat rare species in the aquarium trade, and is now afforded CITES Appendix II trade regulations. Image by Elias Levy, cropped and rotated, CC-BY-2.0

Clarion Angelfish, Holacanthus clarionensis, is a somewhat rare species in the aquarium trade, and is now afforded CITES Appendix II trade regulations. Image by Elias Levy/CC-BY-2.0

October 13, 2016
UPDATE: New aquatic species of interest to the aquarium trade that have just been proposed for CITES Listings include:

• Clarion Angelfish (Holacanthus clarionensis)
• All members of the Family Nautilidae (nautiluses, six species)
• Potamotrygon spp. (freshwater stingrays, including Potamotrygon motoro)


In late September, just days before CITES CoP17 (Conference of Parties Meeting 17) got underway, we shared the proposals to list 4 aquarium-related species under the convention. Listings, and the appendix a species is listed within, can have wide-ranging trade implications, from simply applying trade reporting requirements to outright bans on trade. The CoP17 decisions are in, and will affect every aquarium-related group or species that had been up for discussion.

CITES CoP17 Aquarium Species Recap

Proposed: Include the Ocellate River Stingray, Potamotrygon motoro, in Appendix II, proposed by Bolivia

Decided: The proposal was withdrawn by Bolivia. Instead, as reported by Svein A. Fosså, “Bolivia will instead list the species in [Appendix III] as soon as possible. Colombia has earlier at this CoP announced that they will list several stingrays in [Appendix III]; and Brazil all Potamotrygon spp. in [Appendix III]. This is in accordance with several previous recommendations from various CITES bodies.”

Proposed: Include the Clarion Angelfish, Holacanthus clarionensis, in Appendix II, proposed by Mexico

Decided: Despite the CITES Secretariat recommending against this listing, it was “Accepted [with 69 Parties voting in favour, 21 against and 15 abstaining]. ”

Proposed: Include the Banggai Cardinalfish, Pterapogon kauderni, in Appendix II, proposed by the European Union

Decided: The proposal was “Withdrawn. Instead five draft decisions, contained in CoP17 Com. I. 32 were agreed by consensus. [Rec.14].” We’ll share more on this story in a follow-up from Ret Talbot.

Proposed: Include the Family Nautilidae in Appendix II, proposed by Fiji, India, Palau, and the United States of America

Decided: The proposal to list all Nautilidae under Appendix II was “Accepted [with 84 Parties voting in favour, 9 against and 10 abstaining]. [Rec.14].”

As noted in the official recap press release of CoP17, “Changes to the CITES Appendices, Resolutions and Decisions enter into force 90 days after the CoP.”

This means that starting Monday, January 2, 2017, international trade in Potamotrygon spp. will require either an export permit or certificate of origin when being imported. Meanwhile, trade in the Clarion Angelfish, whether captive-bred in Indonesia or wild-caught in Mexico, will require CITES permits akin to those currently required to trade in all stony corals and wild seahorses; the same will become true for Nautilids.

CITES Appendix III listings for Potamotrygon spp. by multiple countries will add a new layer of complexity to the trade in freshwater stingrays. Potamotrygon motoro shown here. Image by Jim Capaldi, retouched, CC BY 2.0

CITES Appendix III listings for Potamotrygon spp. by multiple countries will add a new layer of complexity to the trade in freshwater stingrays. Potamotrygon motoro shown here. Image by Jim Capaldi, retouched, CC BY 2.0

CITES Setting Aside Science, Preferring Sentiment?

Svein A. Fosså attended CoP17 as as an observer for Ornamental Fish International (OFI), and has attended all CoPs and most Animals Committee meetings since CoP11 in 2000. Reporting as-it-happened to friends and associates via social media, Fosså shared concerns about the process of listings and the way CITES decisions were made this year.

“Yesterday’s long working day ended in a hectic night session where several listing proposals were pushed through in very little time, with next to no debate and zero possibility for NGOs to [comment] on most issues.

“Reptile keepers and traders have had a very bad CoP with lots of listings that hardly meet any scientific listing criteria, and where CITES is unlikely to give any conservation benefits whatsoever. The plentiful animal rights lobbyists had the more reason to rejoice, with their [loud] cheers resounding in the hall every time a new species was banned from trade,” lamented Fosså.

We relay his concerns regarding the reptile listings, as Fosså feels that the listing of the Clarion Angelfish under Appendix II may be another example of a comparable failure at CoP17. “The Mexican endemic species Holacanthus clarionensis suffered a fate similar to the reptiles. [Everyone] who cares about science as a foundation for CITES, there under the CITES Secretariat, IUCN/TRAFFIC and FAO had recommended against this listing. In the hectic late night session it was, however, voted in and agreed with more than 2/3 majority, without any debate.”

In discussing these observations recently, Fosså believes that “Most of your readers will not understand to what grave extent it now is being used to ban trade on animal rights grounds and emotions. It is perverse when the cheers are [loud] every time a species is up-listed (because CITES measures have failed), but success stories where CITES have worked (like the Peregrine Falcon this year) are prevented from being down-listed to [Appendix II], where it now truly belongs.”

Captive-bred Clarion Angelfish from Bali Aquarich, like this specimen imported by Carolina Aquatics, will now be subjected to CITES permit requirements in order to legally entry the country. Image courtesy Carolina Aquatics

Captive-bred Clarion Angelfish from Bali Aquarich, like this specimen imported by Carolina Aquatics, will now be subjected to CITES permit requirements in order to legally enter the country. Image courtesy Carolina Aquatics

 

Large scale cultivation of the Clarion Angelfish by Bali Aquarich could prove an interesting wrinkle for trade regulation, considering that Mexico (who proposed the Appendix II listing) is the source country for wild Clarion Angelfishes. Image courtesy Bali Aquarich.

Large-scale cultivation of the Clarion Angelfish by Bali Aquarich could prove an interesting wrinkle for trade regulation, considering that Mexico (which proposed the Appendix II listing) is the source country for wild Clarion Angelfishes. Image courtesy Bali Aquarich.

 

Nautilids and Banggais – CITES Got It Right?

The decision to list Nautilids under Appendix II seems to have wide-ranging support. The Center for Biological Diversity issued a press release supporting the decision, and Fosså noted that OFI was ready to “actively support the proposal to list the Nautilidae in [Appendix II],” but again there was no opportunity to officially comment.

Trade in Nautilus spp., such as this N. belauensis from Palau, will now be regulated under CITES Appendix II. The curio/shell trade is mainly cited as the cause for population declines of Nautilids. Image by Manuae - CC BY-SA 3.0

Trade in Nautilus spp., such as this N. belauensis from Palau, will now be regulated under CITES Appendix II. The curio/shell trade is mainly cited as the cause for population declines of Nautilids. Image by ManuaeCC BY-SA 3.0

OFI also released an official statement in support of the ultimate Banggai Cardinalfish compromise, which the UK’s Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA) quickly endorsed.

“The situation for the Banggai Cardinal Fish has been of major concern to OFI for many years, although not necessarily for the same reasons as suggested by CITES CoP17 prop. 46.
We are dealing with a species with a very restricted distribution, exposed to a multitude of threats. In addition to the collection for the ornamental fish trade, which has shown a decreasing trend in later years, these threats include destruction of the macro and micro habitats, due to destructive fishing methods for food fish and selective targeting of the host sea anemones and sea urchins. Use as feeder fish in mariculture of food fish has been reported to be an added threat.

“Because of the complexity of the threat factors for the species, we could not agree to CITES Appendix II listing being an effective tool for protecting the species.
Through the unfortunate experience with the listing of the seahorses 14 years ago, we are in no doubt that Indonesia with a listing of the Banggai Cardinal Fish most likely would loose much or possibly even all of their trade to breeding operations in non-range countries; and that most likely with very little or no benefit whatsoever to the wild populations in the Banggai Archipelago. It could also not be ruled out that a listing would have an overall negative effect on the conservation of the species.

“OFI therefore wholeheartedly supports the agreement that was adopted yesterday; to give Indonesia the possibility to implement conservation and management measures, with the support of the CITES Secretariat, Parties and organisations, including the FAO, in the time leading up to the 30th meeting of the CITES Animals Committee.”

We encourage you to read Ret Talbot’s more detailed examination of the Banggai Plan enacted at CoP17, and three years from now, we hope to report back on the results of this plan as required to occur at CITES CoP18.

Banggais & Other Species Targeted for CITES Listings

September 23, 2016 in General Banggai Info, Slideshow

The Ocellate River Stingray or Motoro Stingray, Potamotrygon motoro, is the only freshwater aquarium fish whose aquarium-trade future is being discussed at the upcoming CITES CoP17 meeting. Image by Raimond Spekking, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Ocellate River Stingray or Motoro Stingray, Potamotrygon motoro, is the only freshwater aquarium fish whose aquarium-trade future is being discussed at the upcoming CITES CoP17 meeting. Image by Raimond Spekking, CC BY-SA 4.0

CITES CoP17, Johannesburg, South Africa, starts tomorrow. This is the 17th Conference of Parties meeting to be held, a meeting which has been held roughly every 2-3 years since the first CoP in 1976. CoP meetings are the time when changes to CITES listings for species are discussed and debated, culminating in the adoption of additions and revisions to the CITES appendices.

Among the many species up for discussion, three fish species noteworthy in the aquarium trade will be debated. The proposals include:

  • Include the Ocellate River Stingray Potamotrygon motoro. in Appendix II, proposed by Bolivia
  • Include the Clarion Angelfish, Holacanthus clarionensis, in Appendix II, proposed by Mexico
  • Include the Banggai Cardinalfish, Pterapogon kauderni. in Appendix II, proposed by the European Union

An additional proposal may be of interest to some aquarists:

  • Include the Family Nautilidae in Appendix II, proposed by Fiji, India, Palau and the United States of America

If listed, a species becomes difficult to trade without special permissions and paperwork and may be banned completely from sale into the European Union (EU).

Based on the released documentation, the CITES Secretariat has recommended to reject the listings for the Motoro Stingray (a freshwater species from South America) as well as recommending a similar rejection for the Clarion Angelfish. In the latter case, the Secretariat notes that, “Mexico may wish to consider including Holacanthus clarionensis in CITES Appendix III.”

The Clarion Angelfish, Holacanthus clarionensis, is a somewhat rare species in the aquarium trade, typically selling for $2500 to $4000 per fish, and these days more commonly seen as a captive-bred offering out of Bali Aquarich. Image by Elias Levy, CC-BY-2.0

The Clarion Angelfish, Holacanthus clarionensis, is a somewhat rare species in the aquarium trade, typically selling for $2500 to $4000 per fish, and these days more commonly seen as a captive-bred offering out of Bali Aquarich. Image by Elias Levy, CC-BY-2.0

The CITES Secretariat’s recommendations include support for the listing of all nautiloids in Appendix II. This will likely have little impact on the aquarium trade in the species, which appears to be extremely limited.

A Chambered Nautilus, on display at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Image by Eric Kilby, CC-BY-SA-2.0

bn A Chambered Nautilus, on display at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Image by Eric Kilby, CC-BY-SA-2.0

A listing of nautiloids will likely have little impact on the aquarium trade in the various species, which appears to be extremely limited based on information from AquariumTradeData.org, with never more than 200 Nautilus spp. being imported to the US in a given year, and usually significantly less.

US import data on all nautiloid species from AquariumTradeData.org. Key: Gray = 2000, Green = 2008, Blue = 2009, Red = 2011.

US import data on all nautiloid species from AquariumTradeData.org. Key: Gray = 2000, Green = 2008, Blue = 2009, Red = 2011.

It is the consideration of the the Banggai Cardinalfish for Appendix II listing that perhaps will garner the most attention from the aquarists, and this proposal currently has a recommendation to approve coming from the CITES Secretariat (it should be noted that the Secretariat’s recommendations are just that; they are not binding decisions already set).

What is CITES?

For any reader unfamiliar with CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, CITES.org includes a detailed introduction for review. This international agreement is currently voluntarily adhered to by 183 countries. CITES listings already play a role in the international trade of several groups of species traded for aquarium purposes, perhaps most notably including many corals and all seahorses.

Listings of a species, genus or family under CITES Appendices I, II or III, has various trade ramifications. Appendix I species essentially being off limits, Appendix II species having their trade controlled, and Appendix III with more minimal trade documentation requirements than Appendix II (view detailed explanations of Appendices on the CITES website).

John Kamp at World of Fish in Duluth, MN, inspecting recently arrived Banggai Cardinalfish. The species remains a perennial favorite, generally in the top-10 species imported into the US.

John Kamp at World of Fish in Duluth, MN, inspecting recently arrived Banggai Cardinalfish. The species remains a perennial favorite, generally in the top-10 species imported into the US.

IUCN, CITES, the ESA, and the Banggai Cardinalfish

The Banggai Cardinalfish was first proposed for CITES listing in Appendix II by the United States during CoP14, at the Hauge, Netherlands, in 2007. Just a few months prior, the Banggai Cardinalfish had been listed on the IUCN Red List as an Endangered Species, where it remains at this time (it’s noteworthy that the Red List does not have any effect on trade in a species). The proposal to list the Banggai under CITES in 2007 ultimately failed.

Since that time, the trade in wild Banggai Cardinalfish has continued, although since roughly 2013, it appears that in some markets, captive-bred Banggai Cardinalfish produce by large scale operations in Asia have potentially overtaken the bulk of the trade volume in the species. After review in 2015, at the start of 2016, the Banggai Cardinalfish was listed within the US under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as Threatened, with the Final Rule becoming effective February 19th, 2016.

A male Pterapogon kauderni holding a clutch of freshly spawned eggs in his mouth; this popular species is known for their paternal mouthbrooding behavior.

A male Pterapogon kauderni holding a clutch of freshly spawned eggs in his mouth; this popular species is known for their paternal mouthbrooding behavior.

The Reattempt to List the Banggai under CITES

With this latest proposal to list the Banggai under CITES, once again the debate over aquarium fisheries and the aquarium trade comes to the forefront, and not everyone is in agreement.

OATA, the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association, is the organization representing the aquarium trade in the UK. OATA issued a position statement in opposition to the EU’s proposal to list the Banggai under Appendix II.

OATA beings by citing Indonesia’s ongoing opposition to the listing, something which was generally cited as part of the reason the 2007 proposal failed. “The proposal to list Banggai Cardinal fish on Appendix II is not supported by Indonesia, the only range country for the species. Indonesia considers that such a listing will do nothing to support their national management of the species.”

Furthermore, OATA notes that, “The proposal to put Banggai Cardinal fish on Appendix II is a repetition of an earlier failed listing attempt from 2007. However OATA believes that, although updated, the current proposal does not show any likely benefits of a listing. While the proposal indicates that there has been a continuing decline in Banggai Cardinal fish populations within its original distribution area in the Banggai Archipelago, it is unclear what the main factors for the decline are. There are other threats to the species such as habitat destruction which most likely are more significant than the trade, and that can be expected to increase if the trade incentive for protecting the species is lost.” [read the full position statement here]

Dr. Andrew Rhyne, a leading aquarium trade and aquaculture researcher and author of the paper Is sustainable exploitation of coral reefs possible? A view from the standpoint of the marine aquarium trade, differs in his opinion.

On the eve of CoP17, Rhyne wrote, “The only way forward for the trade in wild BCF [Banggai Cardinalfish] is for it to have a regulated trade. CITES does not prohibit trade, it does increase the burden for trade and for this species that burden is something that likely needs to be in place. Having a higher cost fish or entire shipment is the price that has to be paid for ensuring the unregulated trade in BCF is curtailed. The natural populations of this species have been greatly impacted by trade. There is no one that can suggest it hasn’t. There is overwhelming evidence that it’s natural range has been greatly impacted by trade. That is precisely the purpose of CITES. To allow trade but regulated trade. CITES has worked very well for seahorses and the aquarium trade. Hasn’t worked well for the CTM in seahorses.”

CoP17 runs through October 5th, so within the next two weeks, we’ll know which species and groups, if any, obtain new protections under CITES.

References:

CoP17 Species Proposals – https://cites.org/sites/default/files/eng/cop/17/WorkingDocs/E-CoP17-88-01-A1.pdf

CoP17 Banggai Cardinalfish Listing Proposal – http://ec.europa.eu/environment/cites/pdf/cop17/Pterapogon%20kauderni.pdf

CoP14 Banggai Cardinalfish Listing Proposal – https://www.cites.org/eng/cop/14/prop/E14-P19.pdf

OATA Position Statement – http://www.ornamentalfish.org/uncatogorized/oata-position-on-forthcoming-cites-meeting


Additional Reading:

Banggai Rescue Project:  http://www.reef2rainforest.com/banggai-rescue-project/

For an in-depth look at the plight of the Banggai Cardinalfish, a limited number of copies of the highly praised book, Banggai Cardinalfish, the publication of the Banggai Rescue Project, are still available.

Talbot, Ret. Pedersen, M. and Wittenrich, M. (2013). Banggai Cardinalfish: A Guide to Captive Care, Breeding & Natural History hardcover ed.  Available from Amazon and aquarium booksellers.

Banggai Cardinalfish, the book from Ret Talbot, Matt Pedersen and Dr. Matthew L. Wittenrich, investigating the past, present and future of this iconic and troubled aquarium fish.

Banggai Cardinalfish, the book from Ret Talbot, Matt Pedersen and Dr. Matthew L. Wittenrich, investigating the past, present and future of this iconic and troubled aquarium fish.

IN STOCK!

Dealers: Contact Julian Sprung at Two Little Fishies for wholesale quantities.

Vagelli, A. 2001. The Banggai Cardinalfish: Natural History, Conservation, and Culture of Pterapogon kauderni. Wiley-Blackwell. Available from Amazon.

Banggai Rescue Project: A Biologist’s Perspective

February 27, 2013 in Book Excerpts, General Banggai Info, Project Updates, Slideshow

Dr. Gerry Allen with first live specimens of Banggai Cardinalfish he collected in 1994. Note expelled Banggai Cardinal fry in bottom of bag, the first clue that the species was an extraordinary mouthbrooder. Image by Roger Steene.

Dr. Gerry Allen with first live specimens of Banggai Cardinalfish he collected in 1994. Note expelled Banggai Cardinal fry in bottom of bag, the first clue that the species was an extraordinary mouthbrooder. Image by Roger Steene.

Editor’s Note: For many of us, Dr. Gerald R. Allen, known throughout the aquatics world as Gerry, is one of the living heroes of reef fish science. A protégé of the legendary Dr. John Randall, Gerry has personally found and described a tremendous array of new fish species and published a wide-ranging library of marine guidebooks and scientific papers, while persevering in efforts to preserve marine species diversity in the Coral Triangle.

As the ichthyologist who introduced the Banggai Cardinalfish to modern science and the aquarium hobby, Gerry has graciously lent his support to The Banggai Rescue Project. Here is an excerpt from his Foreword to the soon-to-be-published Banggai Cardinalfish book, coming from the publishers of CORAL.
James Lawrence
Shelburne, Vermont

FOREWORD
Advance Excerpt from Banggai Cardinalfish, Official Publication of the Banggai Rescue Project

By Gerald R. Allen, Ph.D.

My personal quest for this extraordinary fish began just over 20 years ago, when I received a photo of an unusual discovery taken by a diver friend, Kal Muller. Kal took the photo during his recent visit to a remote island off the eastern coast of Sulawesi. The wide-angle shot showed a group of apogonids sheltering near a Long-Spined Sea Urchin. It was definitely something special. In fact, I had never seen such a spectacular cardinalfish and assumed it certainly must be new to science. Somehow I would have to find a way to visit the Banggai Islands and collect this fantastic fish!

It took two more years before I was able to arrange travel to the Banggai Islands, as a side trip in conjunction with a biodiversity conference I planned to attend at Manado, in northern Sulawesi. Timing would be tight as there were only two flights per week to Luwuk, the jumping-off point to the Banggai Group. I invited frequent diving companion and renowned underwater photographer Roger Steene to join the mini-expedition. The trip was arranged for mid-November 1994. We would fly to Luwuk on the Thursday flight, make a quick visit to the Banggai Islands, hopefully collect and photograph the fish, and return to Manado on the Sunday flight. It didn’t leave much margin for error, but the busy conference schedule didn’t allow for extra time.

Pterapogon kauderni, photographed in 1994: a cardinalfish unlike any other.

Pterapogon kauderni, photographed in 1994: a cardinalfish unlike any other.

We arrived at Luwuk around noon and spent most of the day arranging passage on the Banggai ferry and shopping for snack foods. The ferry finally departed at midnight and we prepared for a sleepless night on deck with the throng of about 100 passengers, vehicles, and livestock. But to our pleasant surprise we were able to bargain with the captain, negotiating the hire of his personal quarters for 50,000 rupiahs, probably more than he would earn in salary for the entire voyage. The cabin was very small, but nevertheless comfortable. There were two beds, a fan, and an adjoining toilet, and room to spread out the photographic equipment. The journey took 12 hours, but the time passed quickly, especially as we were able to sleep in relative comfort. The last hour of the voyage was spectacular, as the ship negotiated a narrow passage between two jungle-clad islands. At last the vessel docked at the main wharf at Banggai. It was 12:00 noon and time to put our much-discussed plan into action. We didn’t have any time to spare; the ferry would depart in six hours.

Race to the pearl oyster farm
We hired the ferry’s radio operator, whom we nicknamed “Sparky,” to accompany us because he spoke a few words of English. As soon as the ferry was securely tied Sparky went ashore to hire a small motorboat, and within 30 minutes we were headed south along the western side of the island. Kal had given us vague instructions—he had found the fish near a wooden jetty at a pearl oyster farm owned by a Chinese man, in a bay about one hour by motorboat south of Banggai town. Sparky relayed this information to our driver, who nodded in recognition at the mention of “orang cina,” the Indonesian translation of Chinese man. Several pearl oyster farms are located along the coast, but evidently only one is owned by a Chinese person. Forty-five minutes later we pulled in to a narrow wooden jetty at one side of a picturesque bay.

Banggai Island jetty, 1994. Image by Roger Steene.

Banggai Island jetty, 1994. Image by Roger Steene.

It was a race to be first in the water. In less than a minute we were both submerged, but the fish was nowhere to be seen. I finned slowly away from the jetty, methodically checking every square metre. Kal had previously located the fish in only 6.5 feet (2 m) of depth, so the search was limited to shallow water near the shoreline. The bottom was an uninteresting blend of sandy silt and clumps of seagrass. After a dozen breath-hold dives I sorely missed the luxury of our usual scuba equipment. I inhaled another big breath and plunged down. Swimming close to the bottom, I rounded a large patch of seagrass, and suddenly there it was—a group of about 10 adults huddled around a long-spined Diadema sea urchin.

It’s difficult to describe the level of excitement at that moment, but suffice it to say there was a maximum adrenalin surge. The beauty of this fish in its natural habitat is something to behold. The combination of a striking color pattern and long, graceful filaments on the dorsal and tail fins is truly spectacular.

We had to work fast. I calculated we should spend no more than three hours at the site to allow ourselves ample time for the ferry departure. Further searching revealed several more groups, invariably huddled close to urchins, including a large aggregation containing more than 50 fish. Our first priority, and the most time-consuming chore, was underwater photography. Over the next two hours we took more than 200 shots. This, of course, was the predigital era, so after each 36-shot roll we had to tediously exit the water, towel off, and change film. Finally, with only half an hour remaining, it was time to collect a small sample. This proved a simple task, as the fish retreated among the sea urchin spines where they could be easily sandwiched between a pair of small hand nets. The first attempt yielded six adults, which were summarily placed in a plastic bag. One of the fish spat out an orange-coloured egg mass—not unusual, as male cardinalfishes are well known for their habit of oral egg incubation. A few more specimens were captured and placed in a separate bag. I could scarcely believe my eyes when I checked the second bag a few minutes later. There were more than two dozen miniature replicas of the adult fish that apparently had been expelled from the mouth cavities of two large fish that appeared to be incubating eggs, judging from their swollen throats. Brood care of live young was previously unknown in cardinalfishes.

Soul of a marine biologist: Pinning out a collected specimen for preservation and further study on the sole of a flip flop.

Soul of a marine biologist: Pinning out a collected specimen for preservation and further study on the sole of a flip flop.

Back aboard the ferry, I carefully pinned out the fins of the collected fish and preserved them in formalin solution for later study. We were ecstatic that our carefully laid plans had unfolded with clockwork perfection. Not only had the fish been successfully photographed and collected, but we also gained a sneak preview of its unusual lifestyle and breeding habits. To make things even sweeter, I thought this amazing fish was a new scientific find. However, detailed examination of the specimens in my laboratory at the Western Australian Museum and a review of taxonomic literature proved this assumption to be wrong. The fish had already been described! My investigations revealed that two subadult specimens were collected at Banggai Island in 1920 by a Dutch physician named Kaudern. The specimens had been sent to the Natural History Museum in Leiden and the species was eventually described in 1930 as a new genus and species, Pterapogon kauderni.

Sudden limelight for an obscure species
It seems hard to believe that this magnificent fish escaped the attention of collectors for decades, considering that Indonesia is a leading exporter of marine fishes for the international aquarium trade. However, it remained elusive thanks to the lack of a pelagic dispersal stage typical of most reef fishes and the consequent extremely limited geographic range, confined to an area seldom frequented by outsiders. Suddenly the Banggai Cardinalfish was thrust into the limelight, becoming an overnight sensation. I recounted the tale of its rediscovery at the Louisville MACNA Conference in 1995, and again in an article that appeared in the May 1996 issue of Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine. This was followed by a brief scientific paper reporting our observations of its natural habitat and unusual oral brooding habits.

Showing the first collected Banggai Cardinalfish to the Chinese owner of a pearl oyster farm where the species was found in abundance in 1994. Members of the Banggai Rescue expedition returned to the oyster farm in 2012 and found the fish’s population seriously reduced. Image by Roger Steene.

Showing the first collected Banggai Cardinalfish to the Chinese owner of a pearl oyster farm where the species was found in abundance in 1994. Members of the Banggai Rescue expedition returned to the oyster farm in 2012 and found the fish’s population seriously reduced. Image by Roger Steene.

I have experienced a certain degree of guilt for having triggered interest in this species, which almost overnight became one of the most popular species in the aquarium hobby. Considering its limited distribution, I was particularly disturbed to discover that thousands of specimens were being captured and exported each month—not an ideal conservation scenario for a fish that is geographically restricted and produces relatively few eggs compared to most reef fishes.

It is therefore particularly gratifying to see the initial results of the ongoing Banggai Rescue Project presented in this book. Hopefully, this welcome addition to our knowledge of this fascinating species will lead to reforms of the overfishing situation in the Banggai Islands and a solution to the baffling iridovirus problem that has had such a severe impact on imported specimens in recent years. Importantly, this book also includes the latest information for successfully rearing and maintaining Banggai Cardinalfish in captivity, a positive step that will certainly reduce the demand for wild-caught fish, thus making a valuable contribution to the conservation of the natural population.

Gerald R. Allen, Ph.D.
Perth, Western Australia

Addendum: On a subsequent visit to the islands in 1997 I had an opportunity to dive in Banggai Harbor, including next to the ferry jetty. To my surprise the Banggai Cardinalfish was exceedingly abundant among the jetty pylons and elsewhere around the harbor. Had we known this, we could have saved lots of time and energy, not to mention angst, on our initial 1994 visit.

Banggai Rescue - Banggai Cardinalfish Book CoverThe Book: Now in its final stages of production, the Banggai Cardinalfish book will be published in the spring of 2013. Starting with this excerpted Foreword and continuing with a first-hand look at the Banggai Cardinalfish in its native habitat, the book covers the fish’s natural history, conservation status in the wild, reproductive habits, and ways for small-scale breeders to become local suppliers of captive-bred Pterapogon kauderni. To sign up to receive notice of the publication date and to order the book, visit: Banggai Cardinalfish.

Banggai Rescue Kickstarter Reward Surveys Sent Out

June 18, 2012 in General Banggai Info, Kickstarter Updates, Project Updates, Slideshow, The Expedition

Dr. Roy Yanong, DMV and Dr. Tom Waltzek, VMD, Ph.D., speaking with one of their Indonesian counterparts at the Gondol Research Centre for Mariculture (GRIM) in Bali, Indonesia. Photograph by Ret Talbot.

Dr. Roy Yanong, DMV and Dr. Tom Waltzek, VMD, Ph.D., speaking with one of their Indonesian counterparts at the Gondol Research Centre for Mariculture (GRIM) in Bali, Indonesia. Photograph by Ret Talbot.

The Banggai Rescue team is in Indonesia and is headed further afield to the Banggai Islands later this week.

To all our loyal Kickstarter Backers, the time has come to collect your reward info so we can start delivering on our promises.  Our first wave of thanks and appreciation is coming in the form of a handwritten postcard sent by the expedition team during their time in Indonesia.  For those of you who backed us at higher levels, the rest of your rewards are still estimated for a September, 2012 delivery at this time.

Be sure to fill out your reward surveys completely, fully, and promptly to ensure you get everything we owe you without delay!   It takes only a minute to complete.  If you didn’t get the email from Kickstarter, please do check your spam folders and either post a comment here, shoot us a message on Kickstarter, hit up our Banggai Cardinalfish Rescue Facebook page, you name it.

Keep a lookout for updates from the entire Banggai Rescue team in the coming days and weeks as the project continues to move forward.

Endangered Status

March 8, 2012 in General Banggai Info, Slideshow

From the International Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007

Key Facts

• Entering the IUCN Red List for the first time, assessed as Endangered.

Banggai Cardinals swarm around a large sea anemone already hosting a pair of anemonefish.

• Found only in the Banggai Archipelago, near Sulawesi, Indonesia.

• Total available area for this species is 34 square kilometers (13 sq miles), naturally distributed in 27 islands, according to Alejandro Vagelli (2005).

• Main cause of decline is fishery for the international aquarium fish trade.

• There has been an 89% reduction in population from the start of the aquarium fishery in 1995–1996 to 2007.

• The present total population size is between 1.8 and 2.2 million individuals.

• Presently, an estimated minimum 700,000–900,000 fish are extracted every year.

• Significant destruction of habitat is occurring due to rampant dynamite fishing throughout its range.

Further reading:

The Banggai Cardinalfish: Natural History, Conservation, and Culture of Pterapogon kauderni, Alejandro Vagelli (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, Chichester, UK)

 

A Rare Mouthbrooder

March 8, 2012 in General Banggai Info, Slideshow

The Banggai Cardinalfish, Pterapogon kauderni, has an extremely rare mode of reproduction, in which the male incubates a mass of eggs through hatching, metamorphosis, and direct development of fully capable fry.

Male Banggai Cardinal with fry ready for release.

In other mouthbrooding fishes, parental care stops at hatching, after which extremely tiny larvae are released to be carried by tides and currents.

The tiny, newly released Banggai Cardinalfish babies go immediately to the bottom, where they seek protection among the spines of sea urchins, in coral thickets, or in close proximity to the stinging tentacles of sea anemones.

This mode of reproduction explains the extremely limited range of the species. With no larval stage, the usual wide dispersal of marine fish larvae over hundreds or thousands of miles simply does not occur.

The Banggai Cardinalfish is commonly said to have low fecundity, as each spawning results in only 12–60 eggs being brooded by the male. Often fewer than 20 fully developed fry are released per batch. The species breeds year-round, usually on a monthly cycle.

This species is the only reef fish reported to be endangered by collection for the aquarium trade, the explanation being its extremely limited natural range of 34 square kilometers (13 square miles) in shallow waters off 27 islands.

Collection pressure could be relieved on wild populations if more aquarists became involved in captive breeding. One goal of the BANGGAI RESCUE Project is to develop better protocols for captive culture in the Banggai Islands, in commercial aquaculture facilities in developed countries, and by amateur “basement breeders.”

Breeding Challenges

March 5, 2012 in General Banggai Info, Slideshow

The Banggai Cardinalfish, seen in this image by

Banggai babies in a German reef aquarium, newly released from their male parent's mouth.

Daniel Knop, editor of KORALLE, the highly acclaimed German reefkeeping magazine, will spawn readily in an aquarium setting.

The newly released juveniles are tiny, perfect replicas of their parents, and in theory should be easy to breed in captivity.

Because of the low fecundity of the species, very few Banggai Cardinals are being produced either on a large scale or by home breeders.

The BANGGAI RESCUE Project will attempt to change this, with new approaches to mariculture in Indonesia, enhanced commercial production, and a campaign to encourage breeding by home aquarists.

One serious impediment to breeding is the existence of a “mystery disease” that has killed many specimens collected in the wild and shipped to the United States. Many would-be breeders have lost up to 100% of their wild-caught broodstock, often within weeks of acquiring them.

A marine veterinary pathologist will join the BANGGAI RESCUE Expedition in an attempt to track the source of the infections. Higher survival rates could greatly improve the efficiency of the supply chain, to the benefit of collectors, shippers, importers, distributors, local aquarium retailers, breeders, and hobbyists.

 

Banggai Cardinalfish Fact Sheet

March 5, 2012 in General Banggai Info, Slideshow

Pterapogon kauderni – Koumans, 1933

Discovery I

Banggai Cardinals are vulnerable to many predators and are virtually always found close the bottom.

First collected for science: 1920, by Swedish zoologist Walter A. Kaudern, who sent two preserved specimens to the Leiden Museum of Natural History in the Netherlands, where they were forgotten for 13 years.

Discovery II

Ichthyologist Dr. Frederick Petrus Koumans (1905–1977), curator of fishes at the Leiden Museum, described the species and erected a new genus, Pterapogon (cardinalfish with long fins), and assigned the species name of kauderni in honor of the man who originally collected the fish.

Discovery III

In 1992, dive & travel writer Kal Müller, author of Diving Indonesia, made the first known underwater images of Pterapogon kauderni and sent copies to ichthyologist Dr. Gerald R. Allen for identification.

Discovery IV

Thinking that this was a new species, and an “incredibly beautiful” one at that, Allen kept the fish in mind but was not able to travel to the remote Banggai Archipelago until 1994. Accompanied by underwater photographer Roger Steene, his coauthor on many projects, Allen made the arduous 10-hour ferry trip to Banggai Island. As Müller had reported, the fish could easily be found off the end of a dock in 6 feet of water, under an primitive outhouse, on an oyster farm.

Allen and Steene documented that the species lived in shallow water, on seagrass beds, and in association with Longspined Sea Urchins, Diadema setosum. They also made the startling discovery that this cardinalfish was a mouthbrooder, with the male carrying eggs and fry in his buccal cavity until the young fish could be spat out as fully capable, miniature versions of the adults.

Because this fish lacked the usual larval phase that distributes other coral reef species over huge distances, Allen and Steene were able to explain why the species had never been seen or collected outside of the Banggai Islands.

In researching the species, Allen was surprised to learn of its collection by Kaudern 74 years earlier, and its description and naming by Koumans in 1933.

Discovery V

Aquarium hobbyists and professionals learned of a previously unknown species at the Marine Aquarium Conference of North America in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1995, when Dr. Allen gave a presentation introducing “the Banggai Cardinalfish.”

Aquarists were instantly mesmerized by its beauty, unique color patterns, and unusual reproduction behavior. Literally an overnight sensation, Pterapogon kauderni became one of the most coveted marine species of its day, commanding prices of more than $100 for the early imports.

Given its limited range in the wild, Pterapogon kauderni soon became a species of concern to many observers who feared that it would be vulnerable to overcollection.

Endangered Listing

In 2007 the Banggai Cardinalfish was placed on the IUCN Red List as an Endangered Species, after field surveys found wild populations greatly reduced in some areas and totally absent in others.

Download PDF:

http://www.njaas.org/pdf%20files/IUCN.pdf