NANFA-- ESA issues (was Trading Post)

Christopher Scharpf (
Fri, 05 Nov 1999 00:55:16 -0400

R.W.Wolff said:

>there aren't always ways to find out this information, whether it pretains
>to the status of species, or laws on harvest and transport. Until native
>aquarists are taken seriously and thought to be main stream it is sad to
>say this will continue.

I disagree. A simple phone call or letter to your local DNR will get you all the
info you need re: which species you can collect, how many, and how. Many if not
all state DNRs have this info on their websites. Plus, USFWS has a complete
listing of endangered species on their website. It is our responsibility to know
the regulations. It is not the government's responsibility to tell us

> I still have people come up to me thinking I've commited a
>felony for keeping native fish.

Like who? A game warden? Your next door neighbor?

> I would think promoting our own resources as "pets" would be better than
> scarring other countries fish fauna for theirs. Who knows the status of
> certain tetras, cichlids, and cory cats in their home country?


> So "normal" tropical fish keepers can keep plundering the stocks of South
> America and Afirca, cross breed fish without discression, and be
> considered good.

Most aquarium bought tropical fishes -- I forget the exact percentage, but it's
quite high -- are farm-raised, both here in the US and abroad. The actual
numbers of wild fishes exported from foreign countries is quite small and not
detrimental to populations. (The exception -- a BIG exception -- is the use of
cyanide to collect tropical marine species, and the massive destruction of reefs
for live rock.) Even the population of the cardinal tetra, tens of millions of
which are taken from the Rio Negro each year, has not declined due to aquarium
collecting. Ichthyologist Ling Nabbish Chao has studied this in detail and has
written about it in TFH. In fact, he believes that commercial tropical fish
collecting in South Ameica, and the attendant aquacuktue of tropical aquarium
favorites, may be a way to support local forest economies without deforestation.

Unless somebody has a reference I haven't seen yet, there is no evidence that
South American and African stocks have been "plundered" by the aquarium trade.
(The marine trade, however, is another matter.)

> What is actually being done to protect these fish, other than "you can't
> catch any and keep them"?

Every species on the federal ESA species list has a recovery plan. Some of these
plans have been efective, while some -- because of extenuating economic,
political, social, and environmental circumstances -- are not effective. USFWS
is maintain captive populations of many endangered species (somewhere in my
files I have a complete list).

> I here so much about all the species going extinct, and who is to blame
>(finger pointing, oh brother), but never the efforts under way to reestablish
> things back to the way they were.

Ray, I hear you. I agree with you. The trouble as I see it is, the efforts to
put things back the way they were are way too underfunded, while the efforts to
keep developing and damming and cutting down trees and dredging rivers and so
on, have BILLIONS OF DOLLARS behind them, and with billions of dollars comes the
kind of political clout that can subvert and skirt the Endangered Species Act.
Despite the snail darter being listed, and having its protection guaranteed by a
Supreme Court ruling, Congress just passed a law saying it was exempt and the
damn Tellico Dam was built anyway. Despite the spotted owl listing in the
Pacific Northwest, the timber companies bought votes and got a law passed
exempting them from the ESA. Right now in Alabama, millions of dollars are being
spent to prevent the Alabama sturgeon's listing as endangered. The lawyer who's
fighting to get the sturgeon listed, Ray Vaughan, told me that his operating
budget for the sturgeon is in the hundreds! One ichthyologist who's been
fighting for the sturgeon told me he gave up out of anger and frustration. "I've
done everything I can do. It's all politics now."

It all comes down to money and politics. And, of course, to the fact that there
are too many damned people on this earth.

The other day I was reading one of those "50 things you can do to save the
planet" pamphlets at the library. Lots of tips like not running water while
your'e brushing your teeth and cutting up the plastic thingie from six-packs so
sea turtles won't mistake them for jellyfish. Nowhere on that list was the
single most important thing we can do to save the planet:


>we can have more Largemouth Bass than ever in history, why can't some
>effort go to boosting populations of other fish?

Don't you read American Currents? :-) The USFWS and the government fish
hatcheries are doing a great job with meager funds to keep many species from
extinction. The bonytail chub and pallid sturgeon are two that come to mind.
They released thousands of hatchery raised specimens in order to bring
populations up so that maybe, hopefully, knock on wood, they can start naturally
breeding again. But with 50-85% of their native habitat destroyed, the odds are
against them.

Captive breeding can buy us some time, but it's not the answer. Just look at the
Pacific Northwest for proof. They've spent billions on hatchery raised fish. If
hatcheries worked, they'd be up to their butts in fish right now. But salmon
populations are worse than ever.

So, what do we do? We love, we study, we cherish, we educate, we set examples
for our children and work towards that one day, sooner rather than later, greed
(and other fatal flaws of humanity) takes a back seat to the Earth, and that
there is something left to save.

Chris Scharpf

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