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NMFS seeks public comments for status review of Percula clownfish for ESA listing

Discussion in 'Conservation' started by jahmic, Sep 10, 2014.

  1. jahmic

    jahmic Shark M.A.S.C Club Member

    The United States National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is soliciting scientific comments to help assess the threat to the iconic clownfish, Amphiprion percula. Advanced Aquarist provides more information and offers our thoughts on this important issue.

  2. jahmic

    jahmic Shark M.A.S.C Club Member

    Notable excerpt:

    What can aquarists do?

    It's important to understand that the aquarium hobby plays a small role in NMFS' evaluation. Habitat destruction, coastal development, pollution, ocean acidification, and climate change all dwarf the hobby's pressure on wild A.percula populations.

    Why is this point important? Because the NMFS does not care whether aquarists are good stewards of percula clowns. The NMFS does not care if a great percentage of percula clownfish traded within our hobby are captive bred. The NMFS does not care that our hobby has contributed a great deal of knowledge to this species and its reproduction. Past good deeds will not grant our hobby special consideration or a free pass.
    The NMFS cares mostly about one thing: biological data.
    If data shows that percula clownfish are truly under threat by any combined forces (e.g tourism, sewage, warming waters, a sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea, etc.), the NMFS will move forward with some degree of protection for the species.

    Thus, our hobby needs to support organizations who cancontribute biological data. One such organization is the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), whom we've written about in the past. PIJAC has set up a Marine Ornamental Defense Fund to serve as the voice of our hobby when it comes to pending legislation such as ESA reviews. During NOAA's evaluation of 66 coral species petitioned for ESA protection (22 of which are now listed as Threatened), PIJAC submitted letters and data to NOAA for the review process. And the same is required for the evaluation of percula clownfish.

    While the fight over public opinion is important in the world we live in, the ESA review is largely a fight over science. Going forward, our hobby should also collectively support research that gives us a clearer picture of the threats tropical marine species face. Our hobby should support conservation efforts - not just because it's good PR nor just because it is the right thing to do but also because this is the type of action specified by the ESA which can influence whether corals are listed for protection. In the case of A.percula, imagine a hobby that helps restore A.percula populations in their native habitat. We have the means (e.g. captive breeding techniques we developed). We just need the will.

    Above all, we must maintain vigilance because petitions based on dogma will continue as long as idealists exists.

    [h=2]Respect(ing data) is a two way street[/h]Aquarist must also respect data, even if it means it harms our hobby. Good policy is based on good information, not agenda. The ultimate goal is not about the defense of our hobby. It's about the defense of science and the sustainability of the animals we are privileged enough to care for. If data tells us species are under threat, we should not obstruct conservation to protect our self-interests.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 10, 2014
  3. ReeferMatt

    ReeferMatt Barracuda M.A.S.C Club Member

    Great read, especially the last paragraph! I do however wonder how this would impact captive bread species, as I feel in many ways this only helps the population (captive and reintroduction) and our hobby.
  4. SynDen

    SynDen Kraken Staff Member M.A.S.C Club Member M.A.S.C. B.O.D. M.A.S.C President M.A.S.C Webmaster

    Well that would depend on how they get listed. If they get listed as threatened then captive bred percs will still be okay, and could potentially be used to help bring them back int he wild. But if they list them as endangered then even the captive bred ones will become illegal to possess and trade.
  5. scchase

    scchase Shark Staff Member M.A.S.C Club Member M.A.S.C. B.O.D. B.O.D. Member-at-Large

    Ret Talbot, Richard Ross, and others as well as myself have been discussing these issues for the past few days and one of the keys things that I have gleaned that was not discussed in this article is to push for a change in the way that the ESA handles endangered species. The following is more pertinent to freshwater fish at the moment but will likely soon apply to this side of aquaria as well. Many species of fish are only found in captivity now with varying organizations keeping them alive through targeted programs or because they are valuable for resale, included in this list are many Lake Victoria cichlids, red tailed sharks, and many species of killifish. Right now all it would take is for a group to submit a request with the data currently available to NFWS to list these species and they would likely be listed in short order and all economic reasons to maintain their populations would cease likely resulting in their permanent extinction rather than just extinct in the wild as many of them stand right now. Another good example of this is look at how many corals Walt Smith returns to the wild as part of his mariculture operation, stop this operation and both sides stop resulting in greater harm rather than any sort of protection.

    Also the idea that just being listed as threatened and will still allow for them to be kept in captivity is flawed, PIJAC released a statement yesterday indicating that they believe and I do as well based on my studies of ESA politics that they will be banned from being kept in the near future. If this occurs likely all Acropora will be swept up in the ban because of the inherent difficulties in identification for even experts much less the problems faced by CITES inspectors.
  6. scchase

    scchase Shark Staff Member M.A.S.C Club Member M.A.S.C. B.O.D. B.O.D. Member-at-Large

  7. jda123

    jda123 Tuna M.A.S.C Club Member

    NMFS needs to get with the times and support any captive breeding efforts currently in place.. including possible re-population. This should especially be the case where factors other than collection are the reason for the demise.

    What also kills me is that none of this is enforceable outside of the US... especially where the fish are from.
  8. zombie

    zombie Tuna M.A.S.C Club Member

    I agree. They are using the same rules for fish as they are for tigers. There is a huge difference between the two and how recovery efforts can be done. Can your average joe raise a bunch of tiger cubs and release them to the wild. Heck No. But can your average aquarist raise some clownfish babies or grow out some acros and release those back to the Ocean. Heck ya they can.
  9. jda123

    jda123 Tuna M.A.S.C Club Member

    The average Joe should not be doing any of this or it could get worse. Some professionals who can guarantee no diseases from captivity or other parts of the world might do a good job. It can be tricky, but you have to have the animals to even consider it.

    BTW - there are people who raise tigers to be later wild released. There was a family in rural Missouri who did just that... sent them to India once they got old enough. They had tags and could track them... they gave presos at schools and it was pretty cool.
  10. jahmic

    jahmic Shark M.A.S.C Club Member

    Was going to point out the same concern...the risk of introducing non-native pests, diseases, or predatory species with the reintroduction of captive livestock is much too high for the average aquarist to support those efforts. There is regulation both on the collection and introduction of species, so it's not all that easy.

    That being said...the shutdown of captive breeding and propagation is a serious threat to research that could help save the reefs from larger threats (commercial fishing, pollution, etc), but it's important to recognize that scientific data is needed to support the push to keep certain species from the endangered list. As they said in the article...they really don't care how easy they are to breed in captivity (and part of that is for the previously mentioned risk of reintroduction); if the population decline is significant enough they will take measures to protect the species in question.

    One benefit we have over tiger keepers...is that our fish carpet surf but tigers get out and run around town forcing people to stay inside. One "tiger farm" by my home in NJ had an incident where several tigers were running loose a few minutes from home. Interesting to say the least... :p

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