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International Waters: Banggai Cardinals Back in the Spotlight

Posted: May 31, 2012, 2:30 p.m. EDT

For some years now, the Indonesian Nature Foundation (Yayasan Alam Indonesia Lestari—LINI) has been running a project related to the Banggai cardinal fish or BCF (Pterapogon kauderni) on the islands of the Banggai Archipelago in Indonesia. LINI’s mission is “to support the conservation and management of coastal marine resources throughout Indonesia, by empowering coastal communities and promoting fairer, more sustainable practices, of marine resource use.”

Banggai Cardinalfish
The beautiful Banggai cardinal takes center stage once again.
John Dawes

Part of this work involves close collaboration with the Banggai collectors’ group known as “Banggai Cardinal Lestari,” and involves, among other things, training fishermen the best collection methods and subsequent handling of this popular and beautiful species. Another part involves work on shortening the supply chain and reducing stock mortalities during transport. In this connection, trials carried out during the latter part of 2010 resulted in an increase in survival rates from 82.67 to 96.5 percent, a significant improvement by any standard.

These aspectsare among the activities that form part of the LINI “Save Banggai” Fisheries Improvement Project, which also aims to establish sustainable collection quotas to provide the fishermen of the Banggai Archipelago “with an opportunity to maintain their livelihoods through sustainable resource use, and to help them to conserve the Banggai cardinal fish, together with the fisheries and habitats that support this species.” (See Further Reading below)
A great deal of time and effort is going into conserving the BCF, its habitat and fishery so that fish populations don’t decline any further than they have prior to the establishment of LINI’s program—a decline that led the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to list it as “Endangered” in its Red List (version 3.1) in 2007. This listing, as well as the details contained within the entry for the species (click here), has not been updated since then, yet good progress has and is being made to conserve the Banggai cardinal via LINI’s efforts.

Independently of all this, the consumer publication, CORAL Magazine, launched a campaign in March 2012 (see Further Reading) “to prevent the Banggai Cardinalfish, Pterapogon kauderni, from being wiped out in parts of its native range.” It states that “uncontrolled harvest for the aquarium trade has been cited as the major threatening factor for a fish with a very limited natural range.”

At the time of writing, those involved with the initiative were planning to send a team to the Banggai Archipelago with the aim of “assessing the situation; tracking the source of a mysterious disease that kills many Banggai cardinals collected for the aquarium trade; exploring the possibilities of establishing mariculture operations run by local Indonesian families; and collecting healthy broodstock for captive aquaculture research in the United States.”

Within a couple of weeks, donations from 120 backers surpassed the initiative’s $25,000 target figure. It therefore appears that this initiative is set to get under way in the very near future. Indeed, it may have already done so by the time this item is published.

No explicit details are given in either of the two CORAL reports published to date as to the degree of liaison that has taken place, or is taking place, between the team and the different entities within Indonesia that are already heavily involved (as outlined above) in the conservation of the species. Reference is, however, made to the project having received “the endorsement and encouragement of leading Indonesia wildlife conservationists” and that “…the head of…(LINI), the Indonesian Nature Federation, has also welcomed the project to her country.”

Perhaps a little surprisingly, no specific mention is made anywhere of the LINI activities referred to above. It would be very interesting and relevant to know how the magazine’s initiative fits in with the work that is already under way via the Banggai Cardinal Lestari and the LINI “Save Banggai” Fisheries Improvement Project. It would be reassuring to know that all stakeholders are working hand in hand, thus avoiding any risk of misunderstanding between the various parties.

One also assumes that all the necessary administrative procedures have been thoroughly executed prior to the trip, since overlooking what may appear to be minor details can lead to delays or even the collapse of well-intentioned projects such as this one.

Two aspects, in particular, spring to mind.

Obtaining the appropriate permits, whether for scientific or other purposes, is often a long drawn out affair that can take many months. For instance, the collection and removal of specimens from source countries is an especially delicate affair these days. In view of this, the target date of May for the trip could prove over optimistic if the necessary documentation is not yet in place—unless, of course, prior solid guarantees are obtained from the issuing authorities.

The mariculture aspects might also prove challenging; not in the sense of difficulties in getting the fish to breed, since these should not prove too difficult to overcome, but in the concept’s level of acceptance by the local community. Accustomed to earning their livelihoods directly from the sea, local fishermen and their families could potentially not take too easily to turning their attention and time away from the sea to the land-based breeding and rearing activities that the mariculture project is likely to require.

In a 2011 report (see Further Reading), LINI’s Ron and Gayarti Lilley expressed the wish that “buyers and hobbyists will support this initiative by buying only from supply chains that are part of the ‘Save Banggai’ project, and by paying a little more for their fish.”

The Lilleys were preparing a book at the time of this report, with the aim of helping to place the BCF in a wider context. Interestingly, the CORAL initiative, too, is planning a book, entitled Banggai Rescue—Adventures in bringing Pterapogon kauderni back from the brink, for publication in time for the annual Marine Aquarium Conference of North America due to be held in the Dallas/Fort Worth area at the end of September 2012.

It seems that both the CORAL initiative and the LINI program have many aims in common. It is hoped they will be able to work together synergistically to optimize their efforts, to the benefit of the Banggai cardinal and those whose livelihoods depend, to a larger or lesser extent, on its continued survival. <HOME>

Further Reading
• Ron and Gayarti Lilley, Update on the Banggai Cardinal Fish project by LINI. OFI Journal, Issue 65, February 2011, pp 22 to 25.
• Banggai Rescue a Kickstart Success. CORAL Magazine, March 28, 2012 (This article contains links to three sites relating to the project)

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International Waters: Banggai Cardinals Back in the Spotlight

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