NANFA-- re: policy on grey publication & collecting

Christopher Scharpf (
Fri, 17 Mar 2000 15:56:42 -0400

Luke said:

>Ready it, agree with most of it...but cannot fully support it as it seems
>to me they are trying to squeeze out the private and amatuer
>collector. Their instruction for museums to not recommend outside
>collectors really irks me. I feel this is a good intention on the one
>hand and a try for some people to squeeze out their idea of
>"undersireables" on the other. Sorry, can't support it.


This document mostly refers to aquarists collecting in foreign countries (e.g.,
Brazil, Peru), and does not pertain to collectors in North America depositing
voucher specimens in North American institutions (which is encouraged in some

The part that irks you is actually of matter of law for some countries. Brazil,
for example, has laws about the exportation of specimens. When a museum
accessions material that was illegally collected, it opens up a can of
diplomatic worms that could make it difficult if not impossible for legitimate
researchers to collect and perform biodiversity surveys. The laws and
recommended restrictions do not prohibit aquarists from going to foreign
countries and collecting specimens for private aquaria.

A number of cases have exacerbated this situation:

A herpetologist from North America went throughout the Peruvian Amazon
collecting tree frogs. He smuggled them out of the country, deposited them into
an American museum, and described all the frogs in an Ameican journal. Peruvian
scientists felt cheated since a) they had no chance to study their own fauna,
and b) the type specimens were deposited in a foreign institution, and c) the
frogs were Peru's natural resource to catalogue, not some tourist's.

A few years ago, a former accountant and catfish aquarist collected several new
species of Corydoras from Brazil and described them in an aquarium journal.
These fish were exported illegally from Brazil and illegally deposited into a
British musuem. This again happened recently when German aquarists collected --
I believe they were Apistogramma -- and described them in a German aquarium

And even more recently, German aquarists were arrested in customs trying to
smuggle out illegally captured fish.

It's not that these collectors should be "squeezed out," to use your words. It's
just that such collections have to be done legally. There are protocols in place
for legitimate scientific collecting in foreign countries, which requires that a
portion of the type material be placed in the country of origin, and that a
portion of the scientific paper (at least the abstract) be written in that
country's native language.

I've collected fish in Peru three times, and was able to get my fish out of the
country and into the US legally because I signed papers saying these fish were
for private aquarium use only. I had at least one new species in my possession
(an undescribed Rivulus) and volunteered to donate them to a museum. Scientists
at the Smithsonian (and the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia) both
said "No! We can't have them." (However, scientists were happy to examine my
specimens privately and make locality notes for future museum-sponsored

With that said, there is one component of their recommendation that seems unduly
restrictive: museums should "refuse access to collections to persons who lack
the proper training in systematic research..."

Chris Scharpf

/"Unless stated otherwise, comments made on this list do not necessarily
/ reflect the beliefs or goals of the North American Native Fishes
/ Association"
/ This is the discussion list of the North American Native Fishes Association
/ To subscribe, unsubscribe, or get help, send the word
/ subscribe, unsubscribe, or help in the body (not subject) of an email to
/ For a digest version, send the command to
/ instead.
/ For more information about NANFA, visit our web page,