Sunday, December 11, 2011

CardinalFish Banggai CardinalFish

As seen on the front cover, the Banggai cardinalfish, Pterapogon kauderni, is extremely attractive in appearance, very hardy in captivity, and exhibits an unusual mode of reproduction in that the males incubate their female partner’s eggs in their mouth.  They make outstanding tank companions with all fish, coral and other marine ornamentals. For these reasons, they have become very popular in the marine ornamental trade.  The remarkable rise in popularity of this species since 1995 has begun to raise concerns amongst the various stakeholders in the aquarium industry as currently between 50,000 and 118,000 individuals per month are collected from the wild and make their way to overseas markets. What is cause for concern is that this species is endemic to the Banggai Archipelago in Indonesia with a geographic range which is estimated to be less than 10,000 km2.

Certain aspects of the reproductive life history of this fish such as unusually low fecundity, lack of a pelagic larval phase, and strong site attachment are thought to be the primary reasons for this extremely limited geographic range.  Even with the use of so-called “nondestructive” collection techniques, a clearly negative
relationship is already demonstrated between fishing pressure on the density of this fish, on group sizes, and even some collateral impacts such as a decrease in density of the long-spined sea urchin, Diadema setosum, that the Banggai cardinalfish associates with in the wild.

The mounting body of evidence indicates that the natural populations of this species are clearly under threat due to the demands of the aquarium industry.  In light of that information, the species has already been informally proposed for placement on the threatened species list. However, simply regulating the curtailment of the collection of wild-caught individuals is not an appropriate solution as the market demand for the species has not diminished, as socioeconomic issues would also need to be addressed.  The collectors of the Banggai cardinalfish, and for that matter the majority of marine ornamentals originating from Southeast Asia, are typically small-scale fishermen working either alone or in groups to supply a wholesale distribution chain.

Banggai CardinalFish while these individuals are usually paid very low prices for their products (in Indonesia US$0.10/individual for Amphripion percula and US$0.03/individual for Pterapogon kauderni) they are also among the poorest of the poor income wise in Indonesia.  Collection of marine ornamentals for market provides a valuable source of income for this group of people. 
Spoted CardinalFish
With an estimated 99% of the marine ornamental products originating from wild-caught sources (Olivier, 2003), it is no wonder that the aquarium industry has attracted much controversy over the sustainability of the industry.  While it is still very difficult to accurately weigh the costs and benefits of the marine ornamental industry, remedial actions can already be taken.  One of these is to develop a means of artificially propa gating a target species ultimately resulting in decreased dependence on wild-caught specimens.  Artificial propagation would have the added benefit of providing more employment opportunities for coastal fishermen.  Relevant production technology for Pterapogon kauderni forms the basis for this report.

This manual is not intended to be a repository of all that is known about the Banggai cardinalfish and its culture, but rather an attempt to document a process currently being practiced to commercially produce this species as part of a diversified tropical ornamental fish producing enterprise.  It is hoped that the information will be useful to others to create or improve production capacity of this species with the long-term goal of relieving the dependence on wild-caught individuals.

The production process described  herein is economically viable in Hawai‘i and requires little or no sophisticated equipment. It is a semi-intensive process which is forgiving in its day-to-day management and takes advantage of food stuffs produced on site.  The technology may also be readily adopted by small family farms in coastal areas throughout the tropics.


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