Aquarium trade fuels export of endangered fish

To satisfy demand from aquarium owners, India exported more than a million endangered or threatened freshwater fish over the last several years, scientists report.

The aquarium industry is booming. In India, collectors often nab wild fish in the species-rich Eastern Himalaya and Western Ghats. To find out how many freshwater fish were being shipped out of the country, the team studied customs data, interviewed collectors and exporters, browsed retail websites, and visited pet stores in Europe and Asia. At least 5 million fish were exported to about two dozen countries from 2005 to 2012, the authors estimate in Biological Conservation.

About one-third of the fish were from threatened species, such as the zebra loach, dwarf Indian puffer, and red line torpedo barb. “[N]ew species of conservation concern are being collected and exported to satisfy hobbyist preference for novel and/or rare varieties,” the researchers write. Most of the fish are first shipped to Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore; from Singapore, they often travel to the United States and Europe. — Roberta Kwok | 25 June 2013

Source: Raghavan, R. et al. 2013. Uncovering an obscure trade: Threatened freshwater fishes and the aquarium pet markets. Biological Conservation doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2013.04.019.

Image © Dobermaraner | Shutterstock.com

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