[acn-l] Re: NANFA-- endangered native fish in captivity

peter.unmack at ASU.Edu
Fri, 12 Feb 1999 13:20:05 -0700 (MST)

On Thu, 11 Feb 1999, Shireen Gonzaga wrote:

> There's something I've always wondered about endangered native fish.
> Obviously, habitat restoration is the way to save them. But are there
> any efforts, particularly at research institutions, to keep them and
> breed them--that is, indefinitely sustain them--in captivity? I'm not
> suggesting they should be returned to the wild (tho' tell that to the
> American Condor :-), but the idea of keeping a species "alive" in
> captivity has a sort of creepy appeal.

Talking strictly about USA species there are several species in hatcheries,
like Dexter (as Mark pointed out) and there is the ESA which also goes a long
way to protecting threatened species. Indefinately keeping species in
captivity is not a good answer for conserving them unless there is absolutely
no way they can remain in the wild (in which case it is their last hope).

Aquarists are not granted permits to keep species listed under the ESA. There
are several good reasons for this, one being that they want to prevent people
taking matters into their own hands. Misinformed, but well intentioned
actions can do significant harm under certain circumstances as has been
discussed on the NANFA list many times.

> I've started thinking about all this because I recently acquired fish
> from the Dominican Republic that are in trouble in the wild (it was
> legally collected), and I am trying to understand why I was so anxious to
> take them in and breed them, and delighted to have that opportunity.

There are some places in the world where captive maintainence will be a
species only way of continuing their existance. Everyone has heard of the
situation in northern Mexico and Madagascar. There are many zoos and
aquariums with conservation programs with these species. The role of
aquarists has been minimal so far, in part due to the difficultly of
administering such a system and also because there are no checks and balances
to ensure that populations don't get mixed or hybridized with other species
(mind you, I'm not sure what safeguards zoos and aquariums have either --
perhaps someone who knows the situation could inform us?). Again, I've heard
many aquarists state how they would never mix species, but it can be very
easily done accidentally, most just don't recognise it.

One of the best things that aquarists can contribute is knowledge. I'll bet
you can't find much written on the husbandry of your fish from the Domincans.
Unfortunately, few aquarists ever keep any notes, and even fewer ever publish
them. That is the greatest tradgedy in all this.


Peter J Unmack peter.unmack at asu.edu
DESERT FISHES RULE: To boldly thrive where no other fish can make it!

Australian desert fishes pages at http://ozdesertfish.base.org (don't
forget to visit the Desert Fishes Council pages too)
Desert Springs Action Committee at http://www.tkphotos.com/dsac/
Native Fish Australia at http://www.nativefish.asn.au
North American Native Fishes Association at http://www.nanfa.org
Aquatic Conservation Network at http://www.acn.ca