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Re: "Buy a fish, save a tree"


I've been reading this thread with interest.  I think Karen Randall and Dave 
K probably know quite a bit more about this subject than do I.  I also wonder 
if Ivo Busko (who has been promoting Project Piaba in his sig line for a 
while now) might contribute.

I think Project Piaba is a great approach to a serious problem.  I just wish 
I knew that it was a long term solution.  If it isn't the long-term answer 
then perhaps it is at least a way to postpone environmental destruction while 
still improving living conditions for indigenous people.

Project Piaba seems like a good thing for the Amazon basin but I worry that 
other areas may suffer conditions that are very different.  It may be risky 
to think that one can always benefit local conditions by buying wild-caught 

Karen wrote:

> * NEVER buy CITES fish.  You do still some times see them available, even
> though it's against the law.

This is absolutely correct.  Unfortunately, as near as I can tell CITES 
covers only about a dozen species of fish in their Appendix I and II listings 
and another 5 fish in their Appendix III listings.  Those lists can be found 


I think that of the fish listed in Appendices I and II only one (the golden 
arowana) is ever kept in private fresh water aquaria.   Quite a few other 
species of aquarium fish are endangered in their natural environment and are 
not afforded any level of protection by CITES.  I can think of good reasons 
why CITES shouldn't list them, so this isn't a complaint about CITES.   I'm 
only pointing out that a fish can be endangered in its natural environment 
and till not be listed by CITES.

I recall some time ago reading that the common Black Ruby Barb was extinct in 
it's natural environment and only captive bred specimens still existed.  This 
doesn't appear to be entirely true.  Several sources I found on the web 
regarded the Black Ruby Barb, Cherry Barb and other Sri Lankan aquarium-kept 
species as endangered, but not extinct in the wild.  Collection of these fish 
for the ornamental aquarium trade is not the primary reason for their status. 
Habitat loss, pollution and competition from introduced species are all 
important factors.  The paper at


provides information on endangered and protected wetland environments in Sri 
Lanka.  The paper lists the Black Ruby and Cherry Barb as well as 
Cryptocoryne and Aponogetons as exploitable wetland resources.  Exploitable 
and sustainable?  I don't know.

A third very interesting paper that includes information on the collection of 
aquatic plants (Cryptocoryne, Laganendra and Aponogeton) in Sri Lanka -- 
and description of the environmental effects of collecting -- can be found at


Sri Lankan wetlands are small and threatened;  endemic species of plants and 
animals are endangered; there is environmental damage during collection.  
Because of all that it makes sense to me to not buy wild-caught or collected 
Sri Lankan specimens.

Black Ruby Barbs and Cherry Barbs are common aquarium fish easily bred in 
captivity.  I would think that one could buy them without worrying that they 
were wild-caught fish.  However, in the course of looking up some of this 
information I came across one supplier at


that lists both wild Black Ruby Barbs and wild Cherry Barbs.  I expect there 
are other sources of wild-caught Sri Lankan fish.  As a hobbyist, how would 
you know whether the fish in your LFS are wild-caught or not?  How would you 
know whether your Crypt, your Aponogeton or that unique Laganendra was 
collected in the wild?  Generally, you can't be sure unless you get them from 
the breeder or the grower.

I've used Sri Lanka as an example, but I think there are examples all over 
the tropics and subtropics where fish and plant collection in already 
threatened environments may endanger some species.  Wetland environments all 
over the world are threatened by development, unsustainable forest harvest, 
pollution and aggressive introduced species.  There may be rather few areas 
outside of the Amazon Basin where harvesting wild fish or plants on a scale 
suited to feed the global ornamental market can be regarded as a viable and 
sustainable industry.

Roger Miller