GIANT FISHES – AMAZONAS Hard-Copy Preview for July/August 2014

05 Jun, 2014

AMAZONAS Magazine, "Giant Fishes" - July/August 2014

AMAZONAS Magazine, “Giant Fishes” – July/August 2014

Another overwhelming issue of AMAZONAS Magazine is hitting mailboxes and retailers shelves – this is your first look, hot off the presses, at what’s inside the next issue of AMAZONAS. This issue is currently ready for digitial subscribers too. If you’re not yet a subscriber (whether digital or print + digital), perhaps after a peek inside you’ll realize it’s time to reconsider…ENJOY!

July/August 2014 Table of Contents

July/August 2014 Table of Contents

Aquatic Notebook for the July/August 2014 Issue of AMAZONAS Magazine starts off with the "First success with hatchetfish farming in Florida: Gasteropelecus maculatus", by AMAZONAS Sr. Editor Stephan M. Tanner, Ph.D.

Aquatic Notebook for the July/August 2014 Issue of AMAZONAS Magazine starts off with the “First success with hatchetfish farming in Florida: Gasteropelecus maculatus”, by AMAZONAS Sr. Editor Stephan M. Tanner, Ph.D.

New Badis, Dario kajal, by Hans-Georg Evers

New Badis, Dario kajal, by Hans-Georg Evers

"Looking for the white phantom: the white Neon Tetra", by Lisa Pfeting

“Looking for the white phantom: the white Neon Tetra”, by Lisa Pfeting

Low-tech "natural" breeding tank, by Thorben Niemann

Low-tech “natural” breeding tank, by Thorben Niemann

Thinking big...or even HUGE - by Rachel O'Leary & the AMAZONAS Staff

Thinking big…or even HUGE – by Rachel O’Leary & the AMAZONAS Staff

When big isn't big enough: The crazy aquarist - by Enrico Richter

When big isn’t big enough: The crazy aquarist – by Enrico Richter

MONSTER FISHES...with matching appetites - by Enrico Richter

MONSTER FISHES…with matching appetites – by Enrico Richter

A 10,000-liter Fantasy - by Andi Hofstetter and Charles König

A 10,000-liter Fantasy – by Andi Hofstetter and Charles König

SWEET! Finding Oranges among the Lemons - 10 years of experience with Hyphessobrycon cf. pulchiripinnis - by Hans-Georg Evers

SWEET! Finding Oranges among the Lemons – 10 years of experience with Hyphessobrycon cf. pulchiripinnis – by Hans-Georg Evers

Socialization in the aquarium: Shell dwellers - by Wilhelm Klaas

Socialization in the aquarium: Shell dwellers – by Wilhelm Klaas

A Nano-Slice of Lake Tanganyika - by Sumer Tiwari

A Nano-Slice of Lake Tanganyika – by Sumer Tiwari

The Outdoor Aquarist - by Rachel O'Leary

The Outdoor Aquarist – by Rachel O’Leary

The endlessly varied Aplocheilus panchax - by Jörg Rückle and Jens Kühne

The endlessly varied Aplocheilus panchax – by Jörg Rückle and Jens Kühne

Corydoras from Boliva - by Daniel Konn-Vetterlein

Corydoras from Boliva – by Daniel Konn-Vetterlein

Aquarium Calendar for July/August 2014 - compiled by Matt Pedersen and Ray Lucas

Aquarium Calendar for July/August 2014 – compiled by Matt Pedersen and Ray Lucas

Looking for hard copies of AMAZONAS Magazine? Try the many fine local fish stores and retailers listed in our sources directory!

Looking for hard copies of AMAZONAS Magazine? Try the many fine local fish stores and retailers listed in our sources directory!

Species SNAPSHOTS for July/August 2014

Species SNAPSHOTS for July/August 2014

Our closing page: the Underwater Eye — by Mo Devlin

Our closing page: the Underwater Eye — by Mo Devlin

About the author

Reef To Rainforest

Reef To Rainforest

Reef to Rainforest Media, LLC is the publisher of award-winning magazines and books in the fields of aquarium keeping, aquatics, and marine science. It is the English-language publisher of CORAL and AMAZONAS Magazines and is based in Shelburne, Vermont, USA.

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June 18, 2014 - 11:09 AM No Comments

Steinhart Team Breeds Rare Bargibanti Pygmy Seahorse For The First Time

17 Jun, 2014

An adult Bargibant's Pygmy Seahorse, behind the scenes at the Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences - image courtesy Richard Ross.

An adult Bargibant’s Pygmy Seahorse, behind the scenes at the Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences – Image courtesy Richard Ross.

Matt Wandell and Richard Ross are two professional aquarists who need no introduction to serious marine aquarium audiences. This dynamic duo of public aquarists has the kind of job most all of us would gladly commit manslaughter to have, working for the Stienhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences. Wandell and Ross get to work on the type of aquarium systems most of us can only dream of and certainly will never afford.  As if that wasn’t enough, they get to galavant around the globe on expeditions looking for new and interesting animals and husbandry challenges that many of us will never have the opportunity to tackle - like keeping and breedingHippocampus bargibanti, Bargibant’s Pygmy Seahorse. Can you smell, can you taste, the envy?

Three of Steinhart's key players behind this project - (left to right) Matt Wandell, Bart Sheperd, and Richard Ross, photographed in Manilla in 2011.

Three of Steinhart’s key players behind this project – (left to right) Matt Wandell, Bart Sheperd, and Richard Ross, photographed in Manilla in 2011.

The news that the Steinhart Aquarium has successfully bred and reared the smallest species of seahorse currently in captivity was released today in an online article by Nick Stockton for Wired Magazine. Stockton’s article tells the three-year back story behind this project (it’s quite humorous, we encourage you to read it), culminating in a world-wide first.

Apparently Wandell and Ross first had to prove their convince the Steinhart’s director, Bart Sheperd, that the ambitious project was feasible: before pushing forward into breeding attempts, they needed to successfully keep the seahorse’s host, a gorgonian species, Muricella paraplectana, that has proven difficult to sustain in captivity.

This sea fan is one of two known hosts for Bargibant’s Seahorse; wild photos and Fishbase records also document Muricella plectana as a host for the species. Interestingly, Fishbase suggests that “two color morphs [of H. bargibanti] are known: (a) pale grey or purple with pink or red tubercles (found on gorgonian coral Muricella plectana) and (b) yellow with orange tubercles (found on gorgonian coral Muricella paraplectana).”

Needless to say, Wandell and Ross succeeded with the gorgonian care and held Sheperd to his promise. During the 2014 Philippines Biodiversity Expedition, Wandell collected a single pair of H. bargibanti, on the night of May 18th, 2014, which arrived at the Steinhart Aquarium only 2 days later on May 20th. When asked why biologists only collected a single male/female pair, Ross replied, “We want to have the least impact on the natural environment as possible, especially for an experiment…We were thrilled just to have them alive in captivity.

Ross has been observing these fish like an annoying, micromanaging boss. Such extreme focus has already allows Ross to document behavior including courtship and mating. Check out this newly released footage of the daily, morning bonding ritual that occurs between the pair.

Female in front, male behind from Richard Ross on Vimeo.

Wandell and Ross’s new charges did a whole lot more than just live in captivity, they have already produced 2 broods of captive-bred offspring, with a third birth expected this weekend. Estimates suggest as many as 70 offspring are produced in each breeding cycle.

A plethora of day-old captive-born Hippocampus bargibanti - image courtesy Richard Ross.

A plethora of day-old captive-born Hippocampus bargibanti – image courtesy Richard Ross.

Details on larval rearing are understandably scarce at this time, but what can be revealed is that copepods provided by Algagen played an integral role in nourishing the pelagic offspring. Baby Brine shrimp, aka. Artemia nauplii, were also shown to be used as a larval feed.

A larval Bargibanti Seahorse, at 6 days post birth, feeding on a copepod.

A larval Bargibanti Seahorse, at 6 days post birth, feeding on a copepod.

Yes, while we might have hoped that this species was similar in reproduction to the “breed-like-rabbits” Dwarf Seahorse, Hippocampus zosterae, there are already some noteworthy differences between the two species. H. zosterae are one of the few seahorses known to feature direct-development of their offspring; in seahorse breeder jargon, they “hitch” immediately upon birth. Wandell and Ross  shared that the offspring of H. bargibanti don’t settle and assume a benthic lifestyle (start hitching) until 18 days post release.

Newly-settled 18 day old Pygmy Seahorse, Hippocampus bargibanti - image courtesy Richard Ross

Newly-settled 18 day old Pygmy Seahorse, Hippocampus bargibanti – image courtesy Richard Ross

One of the big questions, of course, is whether the color morphs are genetic or caused environmentally (One theory: a seahorse doesn’t know which gorgonian it’s going to settle out onto, so perhaps it changes post-settlement to match its host’s coloration). Perhaps Wandell and Ross will be doing more experimentation that could reveal an answer to this very intriguing question.

For those aquarists who’ve been pining for H. bargibanti, sadly this news doesn’t translate into instant availability for this species within the aquarium trade. We’ve followed up with another article that investigates exactly why you haven’t seen this pygmy seahorse available to date, and why you probably won’t see them anytime soon.

Little else has been written yet about the husbandry methods and breeding protocols for the species at this time. We look forward to this information being made available as this project progresses. CORAL Magazine will be publishing more about this, as the details of the story are revealed by Wandell and Ross. Our hearty congratulations to the team at Steinhart for breaking down yet another captive-breeding barrier.

Image Credits

All images copyright Richard Ross, 2011 / 2014, published with permission.

About the author

Matt Pedersen

Matt Pedersen

Matt Pedersen is a Sr. Editor and Associate Publisher with Reef2Rainforest Media, LLC, including AMAZONAS & CORAL Magazines. Matt has 32 years as an aquarist, has worked in most facets of the aquarium trade, is an active hobbyist and fish breeder (both marine and freshwater), and was recognized as the 2009 MASNA Aquarist of the Year.

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June 18, 2014 - 11:02 AM No Comments

Chaos in Black & White

05 Apr, 2014

Click to enlarge.

by Haakon Haagensen
Excerpt from AMAZONAS Magazine, May/June 2014

There is no armored catfish more popular among aquarists than the black and whiteHypancistrus from the Rio Xingu in Brazil known as the Zebra Pleco. Many pleco forms are near extinction in their natural habitat; we have the unique opportunity to conserve them in the aquarium, at least on a small scale.

Would-be breeders please take note: People are willing to pay big money for these catfish.

Ever since the late 1980s, when the first pictures of a black and white striped Peckoltia (L46) were published, aquarists all over the world have enjoyed keeping and breeding these little gems in their home aquariums. It did not take long for new and slightly different forms of black and white striped plecos to be discovered and shipped out of Brazil. Although aquarium magazines everywhere provided tantalizing images of the early exports, most of those fancy and shockingly expensive plecos went to wealthy customers in Asia.

In the heyday of the L-numbers, importers clamored to present the latest sensational and exclusive catfish species. The fewer specimens were available, the higher the prices. Both L236 and L250 were supposedly caught in very difficult-to-reach areas in an Indian reservation on the Rio Iriri, a Rio Xingu tributary upstream of Altamira, but later it became clear that L236 is also found in the Rio Xingu, even in the same region as the well-known L333. (Specifying false catch sites is a practice commonly employed to prevent other collectors from visiting the true locales.) There is still controversy as to whether there are any Hypancistrus in the Rio Iriri; experienced collectors and travelers claim that there are none, but others maintain that no one has searched hard enough to find them.

In recent years, new restrictions by the IBAMA (Brazil’s conservation authority, similar to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) have made it harder to find these fishes in the trade. Fortunately, most have already been propagated in the aquarium. Although this has partially satisfied the demands for these fishes, it has also led to a new and complicated issue: hybridization. It turns out that it is anything but easy to distinguish the different but very similar forms from one another, even those found in the same river system.

Click to enlarge.

Species confusion
Given the impending completion of the Belo Monte Dam Complex near Altamira on the lower Xingu, we should all try to learn as much as we can about these great catfishes before they disappear from their natural habitats. About 15 forms of Hypancistrus are known from the lower part of the Xingu River between Altamira and Porto do Moz. Some of them, such as L250, are still shrouded in mystery, but it is likely that they, too, come from this region. Besides the many L-number catfishes, there are others that are difficult to identify. It is unlikely that they are all separate species, since they all come from a single river and are closely related.
While it is not unusual to find several forms of a species in a single habitat, the huge number of forms that occur in the Rio Xingu is confusing. Entirely different standards are needed to categorize these fishes, and it is hardly surprising that some people are so overwhelmed by the sheer variety that they just put their heads in the sand.

There is a huge amount of general information about these catfishes out there. Breeding reports, husbandry experiences, and identification guides are ubiquitous on the Internet; some sources are reliable, others questionable. What is certain is that so far, nobody has a foolproof way to identify the many types and forms.
With all this in mind, I have tried to summarize the available information here. I admit that this article does not give any definitive answers, but I hope it leads to a better understanding of this amazing catfish group.

Chaos In B&W3

Clearwater habitat
The various forms of black and white striped Hypancistrus are usually caught between Altamira and Porto do Moz in water 6–100 feet (2–30 m) deep. They occur in moderate to fast-flowing, soft to slightly acidic warm water. They prefer rock structures and like to hide in cracks and crevices. The water parameters, which are constant almost all year, are: pH 6.0–6.5, very low conductivity, and temperatures of 82–90°F (28–32°C). The distribution of various populations is restricted by the extreme currents and precipitous waterfalls, so they stay in their own territories.

However, one must not underestimate the vastness of the region: the Xingu River basin is larger than most people can imagine. The river is several miles wide in places and contains some islands. Large rocks that create rapids alternate with extensive sandy areas, representing distribution barriers for these littoral-colonizing catfishes.

The best-known Hypancistrus forms of the Rio Xingu
A form that occurs without the presence of another from the same genus is usually referred as a valid or emerging species. It seems that there are four of these base forms in the Rio Xingu:Hypancistrus zebra, L174, L66, and L333. The latter two are larger than the rest (6–6.4 inches/15–16 cm TL). Hopefully, detailed molecular DNA studies will soon reveal more about their genetic relationships, but there is no doubt that the forms are all closely related. A very comprehensive study is currently in progress and should shed some light on the issue.

The four main forms or species
Hypancistrus zebra is remarkably uniform and is very attractively patterned. Occasionally, H. zebra specimens with pattern variations, such as L98, do occur. Through breeding experiments, we know that this variation is not heritable. L250 may also be a H. zebra variant; all known images show specimens with silvery eyes, a feature known only from H. zebra. The blue shimmer in the fins of H. zebra is also present. However, most Hypancistrus from the Rio Xingu have brown to reddish eyes and do not show any trace of blue on the fins. Without further imports, a clarification in this case is difficult. The distribution of H. zebra includes four to six different localities between Altamira and Belo Monte. H. zebra is usually found in deep water. Based on aquarium observations, the species is more active at night. Both factors suggest that the zebra pattern is well suited for low light conditions.

Chaos In B&W4

Hypancistrus sp. L66 is a large and robust form with a black wormline pattern on a gray or yellowish background. While L333 is usually cream-colored, L66 is more commonly white and gray. In mature animals, the pattern is denser and finer, often breaking down into stripes or even spots. However, color and pattern are not reliable differentiation features between the two. Compared to L333, L66 is flatter and the caudal fin is more deeply forked. L66 is one of the most widespread forms in the river; it occurs from Altamira down to the huge lake located at the river’s end. This form is also found in the tributaries.

Hypancistrus sp. L174 is easy to recognize: the most characteristic feature of this deep-water species is its small eyes. There are only a few known locations, which are downstream of Altamira. L174 is, so far, the smallest known member of the genus with a maximum length of 3.2 inches (8 cm). The pattern always consists of dark dots or spots, which led to the nickname “Ocelot Pleco.” Contrary to previous reports, L174 shares no habitats with H. zebra.

Hypancistrus sp. L333 has a high-backed, compact, sturdy shape with a reverse D-shaped caudal fin. The many known variants differ in both pattern and color. Usually, the pattern of wormlines becomes narrower and shows less contrast with age. Some individuals have beautiful wide lines. This rather large species is mostly caught near Porto do Moz, but is also found near Vitoria do Xingu.

Chaos In B&W5

The Rest
The biggest challenge for aquarists is to identify the many other forms that occur in the river, as they are all very similar. They have a bright base color, which can vary from pale yellow to gray and white. The pattern consists of dark wormlines or spots. The eyes are brown and their size varies. Some forms have a short, compact build, while others are rather slim. The caudal fin can have long filaments or be small and non-elongated. The head shape is not uniform; it can be pointed or rounded. Most hobbyists pay way too much attention to the color pattern. This is where there is the most overlap between the various forms, which makes identification impossible. Never rely on the color pattern to identify these forms!

Hypancistrus sp. “Mimic” lives syntopic with L174 near Altamira. In the last few years, it was often mistaken in the trade for L399/L400 or L173. Hypancistrus sp. L174, L399, L400, and “Mimic” share one feature: the dark spot pattern. Hypancistrus sp. L174 and “Mimic” have much smaller eyes than the others. Hypancistrus sp. “Mimic” is larger and has a flatter body and a more pointed head than L174. Young animals are almost impossible to distinguish. Hypancistrus sp. “Mimic” babies have a striped pattern, similar to H. zebra, whereas young L174 always have a spotted pattern.

Hypancistrus sp. “Lower Xingu” is a complex group of similar forms that are very difficult to distinguish. Apparently, this group is in the process of slowly separating into individual new species. They live within a radius of just over 6 miles (10 km) of Belo Monte. Janne Ekström works there every day with these catfishes and says the following: “There are four or five variants in this complex. One of them, known as H. sp. ‘Gurupa,’ is always light gray to white and has smaller eyes relative to the head size. The body shape is compact and the caudal fin has no filaments or extensions. A second variant is black and white, with a flatter body and extended caudal. This variant is very similar to L173; some look exactly like it (not all L173 look like discolored H. zebra). The third variant is also black and white, but shares the compact body and the lack of filaments with H. sp. ‘Gurupa.’ It resembles L333, but has a pattern that varies from spots to broad, irregularly arranged stripes. L399 and L400 are from the same region and possibly also belong to this group.”

Chaos In B&W6

Hypancistrus sp. L287/L399/L400: These are three numbers for one and the same form, in my opinion. It is apparently a highly variable form. Although spotting is the most common pattern, there are specimens that have very broad lines or fine lines with plenty of open space. Intense captive breeding has revealed an enormous number of variations. Characteristics of coveted forms such as L173, L236, and L345 are among them. These L-numbers may be all morphs of the same form. L399 differs from L400 only slightly by a somewhat more delicate physique—L400 appears more robust.

This group consists of smaller catfishes (about 4.8 inches/12 cm) that are more elongated and a little less bulky. They have large, forked caudal fins with the longest filaments in the genus. There are variations in the anatomy. Such immense variability among loricariids is not common and is very noticeable in this case. To complicate matters, the home of these catfishes is in the surroundings of Belo Monte.

During just one dive, different variants can be caught in a single locality. They share their habitat with some of the main species in the river (L66, L333, and H. zebra). Belo Monte seems to be a hotspot for the development of new forms and species. So far, the gene flow between these forms has not been well studied, but a form like L173 suggests that there are regular natural hybridizations among some of them. The question is, to what extent is this happening?

Hypancistrus sp. L173 is a highly sought-after but controversial form from near Belo Monte. The similarity to H. zebra is striking, especially in juveniles. However, there are differences: L173 has brown eyes, a rather off-white base color, a variable wormline pattern, a taller and more compact body, and a longer caudal fin. This form also grows larger than H. zebra. In the hobby, L173 was unfortunately hybridized with H. zebra to produce more of the “L173 type.” Some L173 lines differ so much from the norm that it is hard to believe that they belong to this form. Not all individuals have the typical pattern. Some offspring of L400 show a pattern similar to L173, hence, a close genetic relationship is very likely. It is important to note that L173 is not a morph of H. zebra, as was previously assumed.

The commercially available L173b should be regarded with skepticism. (The “b” was introduced by Aquarium Glaser. Specimens that differ externally from the normal habitus were identified with the letter “b.” Individuals with a typical pattern and color would therefore be “L173a.”)

Hypancistrus sp. L236: The image from the initial introduction of L236 shows a fish with a few wide black wormlines on a pale cream background—an unusual pattern, even within this genus. Nevertheless, such individuals occur in all forms with wormlines, although it is rare. The individual shown shared many characteristics with L66, such as the flat, slender physique and the forked caudal fin. However, there are also examples known that combine the physique of L333 with the pattern of L236. These are L333, which are advertised as L236 because of their pattern. Over time, L236 has become a “brand.” Each Hypancistrus that corresponded to the original pattern, no matter where it came from or what body shape it had, was called L236.

Many catfish friends seem to forget or ignore the fact that all the wormline Hypancistrus are inconsistent in their patterns. Two parents with exactly matching patterns will not guarantee that the same pattern will show up in the offspring. With the exception of H. zebra, there is noHypancistrus form with a consistent pattern that is found in large quantities. Even in Colombian species such as H. debilittera and L340, there are animals with a “negative pattern” (H. sp. “Platinum”). However, this is never the standard pattern of any species.

Starting with an “ideal pair,” we attempted to select out the dark parts of the body pattern. At the beginning, 10 percent of the offspring corresponded to the desired appearance. After 10 years, the yield of fishes with the desired pattern increased to 30 percent per clutch. This shows that a certain color or pattern type can be bred selectively in the aquarium. In addition, it should be noted that at the juvenile stage (1.6–2.4 inches/4–6 cm), all Xingu forms except H. zebra look very similar, so they cannot be identified by the pattern. Therefore, it is important to see the parents in order to assess whether a breeder has properly named the animals or not. The impressive pattern of babies usually becomes denser and darker with age.

Chaos In B&W7Thoughts on the development
of Hypancistrus in the Rio Xingu
Currently, the Rio Xingu is the most species-rich habitat for loricariids. Among them are many forms and species that are still evolving—and not only Hypancistrus. Spectracanthicus, Scobinancistrus (at least six), Ancistrus, Baryancistrus (at least nine), and others are represented by many similar forms that differ by color pattern. This shows that this river, with its natural boundaries, contributes to the rise of new species. This may be the case for Hypancistrus, although they differ much more, not just in the pattern. The large variation is the result of specific adaptations to the environment, such as predation, food, the structure of the riverbed, water depth, flow, and intraspecific communication.

The rapids, waterfalls, and sandbars form natural barriers in the river, so it is not surprising that one finds isolated populations. This physical isolation, and the fact that the catfishes do not move very much and thus rarely overcome these boundaries, allow these populations to evolve into new, slightly different forms as they adapt to the habitat.

It seems that some forms exist very close to each other, even in the same biotope. How they differentiate to find their partners, and whether this is done by looks, smells, sounds, or ecological niches, such as water depth or rock structures, is one of many questions that remain. For example, it is not yet known whether all Hypancistrus can interbreed. Right now it looks like that is the case. The possibility that all forms hybridize is certainly greater in the aquarium than it is in nature. We do not yet know how mixing takes place in the natural habitat or what makes a fish choose a given partner.

Maintaining pure aquarium strains
Tropical fishes occurring in different morphs is nothing new, and these forms can serve as a basis for breeding new lines. One of the best-known examples is the discus (Symphysodon sp.). In this genus, even cross-species hybrids are widely accepted. However, catfish enthusiasts tend to reject that idea, and the results of hybridizations from Eastern Europe are frowned upon by serious hobbyists. In Asia, however, the creation of new lines seems to have been widely accepted. I personally hope that this view will not prevail elsewhere.

Hypancistrus belongs to the undemanding L-catfishes, and this makes the genus popular with beginners, which in turn increases the risk of unintentional hybridizations. It is well described that the various forms cross and produce fertile offspring (a list of known hybrids can be found atwww.L-Welse.com). Take, for example, the hybrid offspring of L66 and L333. Such fry are simply given a number and then passed on, knowingly or not. Thus, we run the risk of creating singular hybrid strains with unknown provenance. This happened long ago with the “Common Bristlenose Pleco” (Ancistrus sp.).

It is important to know the origin of your animals. Are they wild caught, captive-bred from a breeder, or bought as individual animals? There are countless discussions on the Internet about the identity of individual animals. Many Hypancistrus from the Rio Xingu are expensive, and most fish keepers who care for them try to keep them pure, but some people do not want to know what they have in their aquariums if the truth does not agree with their wishful thinking.

Due to IBAMA restrictions in Brazil, for a long time there were no wild-caught animals available commercially. Even today, most fishes offered are tank-raised offspring. Consequently, it is all the more important for breeders to be aware of the identity of their catfishes and not simply pass them on under a name that will bring the greatest profit. While H. zebra is propagated in large numbers worldwide, some species and forms are very rarely kept. These are the species and forms we must multiply and preserve!

The Rio Xingu offers a unique display of evolution, where we can observe the formation of species within a lifetime. If we have an interest in exploring this unique group of fishes, we must act quickly. Time is running out: we all know about the Belo Monte Complex, now under construction. In a few years, the environment could be so severely degraded that many fishes might disappear. The reality is that we are destroying a treasure before we have understood it. However, we do have a breeding foundation for maintaining some black and white Hypancistrus, at least in the aquarium, for a long time to come.

Acknowledgments: This article is the result of years of personal experience and research. Still, I would not be able to present this work without the help of many knowledgeable people in the catfish world. I am grateful for their time, their dedication, their criticism, and their willingness to communicate. I am sure we will all continue to benefit from the great collaboration we have established. My thanks go to my friends Erlend D. Bertelsen, Hans Johan Mengshoel, and Bjørn Iversen (all from Norway), Janne Ekström (Sweden/Brazil), Mikael Håkansson (Sweden), Heriberto Gimênes, Jr. (Brazil), Saul Paredes, Nathan Lujan, Jon Armbruster, and Milton Tan (all from U.S.), Daniel Konn-Vetterlein, Ingo Seidel, Torsten Schwede, and Hans-Georg Evers (all from Germany).
References
Budrovcan, R. 2011. Die L236 Story—Teil 2. BSSW-Report 23 (3): 9–17.
Ekström, J. 2010. Der Belo-Monte-Staudamm am Rio Xingu—ein vorprogrammiertes Desaster. AMAZONAS 31: 8–12.
Evers, H.-G. 2005. Quo vadis, Hypancistrus zebra? AMAZONAS 2 (German): 36–8.
Evers, H.-G. and I. Seidel. 2002. Wels-Atlas, Band 1, Mergus Verlag, Melle, Germany.
Lechner, W., M. Geiger, and A. Werner. 2005. Neues aus der Gattung Hypancistrus—Teil 1. DATZ 58 (11): 6–13.
———. 2005. Neues aus der Gattung Hypancistrus—Teil 2. DATZ 58 (12): 10–17.
Schmidt, E. 2011. Die L236 Story—Teil 3. BSSW-Report 23 (2): 18–21.
Schraml, E. and F. Schäfer. 2004. Aqualog Loricariidae All L-Numbers. Aqualog Verlag A.C.S., Rodgau, Germany.
Seidel, I. 2005a. Besonderes zur Gattung Hypancistrus. AMAZONAS 2 (German): 16–25.
———. 2005b. Die Neuesten Hypancistrus-Arten. AMAZONAS 2 (German): 26–9.
———. 2007. Schon wieder ein neuer Hypancistrus aus dem Unterlauf des Rio Xingu. Aquar Fachmag 193: 30–31.
———. 2008. Back to Nature: Guide to L-Catfishes (Loricariidae). Fohrman Aquaristik AB, Jonsered, Sweden.
———. 2010. Hypancistrus-Fibel—Die schönsten L-Welse im Aquarium. Dähne-Verlag, Ettlingen, Germany.
———. 2011a. Der Rio Xingu in Brasilien—ein Paradies in großer Gefahr. Aquar Fachmag 213: 4–7.
———. 2011b. Rio Xingu—große Artenvielfalt durch verschiedene Lebensräume. Aquar Fachmag 213: 8–19.
———. 2011c. Die vom Aussterben bedrohten L-Welse vom Rio Xingu. Aquar Fachmag 213: 20–27.
———. 2011d. Die L236 Story—Teil 1. BSSW-Report 23 (3): 6–8.
Seidel, I. and H.-G. Evers. 2005. Wels-Atlas, Band 2. Mergus Verlag, Melle, Germany.
Stawikowski, R., I. Seidel, and A. Werner. 2004. DATZ Spezial: L-Numbers. Verlag Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart, Germany.
Trusch, S. 2005. Bereits gezüchtet: Hypancistrus sp. “Belo Monte.” AMAZONAS 2: 30–35.

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April 8, 2014 - 2:48 PM No Comments

Pity we will never see these legally in Aus

Aquacultured Clarion Angel Comes to the US

09 Aug, 2013

Aquacultured Clarion Angelfish from Bali Aquarich, images courtesy / copyright Quality Marine

Aquacultured Clarion Angelfish from Bali Aquarich, images courtesy / copyright Quality Marine

Press Release. Quality Marine, 08-07-2013

In a Western Hemisphere First, An Aquacultured Clarion Angel is Available!

Quality Marine is proud to announce the first Aquacultured Clarion Angel (Holacanthus clarionensis) available for sale in North America. This fish was produced from a captive breeding at Bali Aquarich, where it was reared to a salable size. It was then shipped to the United Kingdom for a brief period and now it is beginning its North American tour in Southern California, here at Quality Marine.

Aquacultured Clarion Angelfish from Bali Aquarich, images courtesy / copyright Quality Marine

Aquacultured Clarion Angelfish from Bali Aquarich, images courtesy / copyright Quality Marine

What makes the Clarion so special?

The Clarion Angel is a gorgeous fish that adapts very well to aquarium environments. They are hardy and are “personable” tank inhabitants. Though they can be pugnacious with tank mates, they generally learn to recognize people as feeders and will interact with them.

This is a fish with a very limited distribution, coming only from shallow water tropical reef locations from the southern tip of Baja California, Mexico down to Clipperton Island. The majority of the species are found in the Revillagigedo Islands. The population size, distribution, and habitat that this fish prefers is so limited that it could easily be over exploited. It is currently listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN Red List. Quality Marine does not import or stock wild Clarion Angels.

Aquacultured Clarion Angelfish from Bali Aquarich, images courtesy / copyright Quality Marine

Aquacultured Clarion Angelfish from Bali Aquarich, images courtesy / copyright Quality Marine

Biology / Captive Care

Juveniles of this species are generally solitary and territorial and occasionally have been seen acting as cleaner fish. Adults are generally also observed singly, and have also been observed acting as cleaners for very large rays. They also occasionally form large groups which some literature suggests is for breeding.

H. Clarionensis has a fairly small adult size at 7.8 inches. Like most fish in their genus, a large portion of their wild diet consists of sponge matter, with some aquarists reporting that coloration fades if food containing sponges is not offered. The blue barring of this juvenile fish will fade and it will end up being a brilliant gold coloration.

Aquacultured Clarion Angelfish from Bali Aquarich, images courtesy / copyright Quality Marine

Aquacultured Clarion Angelfish from Bali Aquarich, images courtesy / copyright Quality Marine

Quality Marine

Celebrating over 35 years in business, Quality Marine continues to provide the Public and Retail Aquarium industry with the highest quality, most sustainable and widest selection of both wild and aquacultured marine fish and invertebrates. Quality Marine works tirelessly to support responsible operators that collect in a sustainable manner and protect the reef habitat. We encourage all industry professionals to do the same. We continue to exhibit our commitment to helping make this industry a better one, to help protect our resources for not only the longevity of our trade, but also for the preservation of the environment. As our business grows, we still focus on the keys to our success, Quality, Variety, and Service, second to none.

Eli Fleishauer
Quality Marine

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August 22, 2013 - 10:25 AM No Comments

New PNG Livestock…


PNG Sustainably Collected Livestock Arrives
Aquarists can expect rare fishes and exotic clowns
Gold Nugget Wrasse
The Golden Nugget Wrasse, just arrived from EcoAquariums Papua New Guinea.

On a hot Southern California summer afternoon in a Valley warehouse adjacent to Van Nuys airport, an important bit of North American aquarium history occurred. On Saturday, July 14th, the first North American shipment of sustainably collected marine aquarium animals from EcoAquariums Papua New Guinea (PNG), Ltd. arrived in the United States. This marks the first opportunity since North American aquarists rallied around the new PNG aquarium fishery in late summer 2010 that sustainably collected animals from PNG will be widely available to Americans.

“This shipment is not only important to me personally,Joe-CaparattaJoe Caparatta, right, told CORAL Magazine during an interview while the animals were being unpacked, “I feel that it’s important for the hobby.” Caparatta is the owner of Manhattan Aquariums and New York Aquarium Service. He founded the original Unique Corals in the basement of the New York store before moving it to Los Angeles, where he is rebranding it with the sustainability ethos.

Caparatta and partner Scott Fellman are set to launch the new Unique Corals, a boutique marine aquarium business dedicated to making “conscientious, sustainable and responsible” aquarium animals widely and readily available through both wholesale and retail sales. The official launch of the new company is scheduled for early August, and the recently imported PNG fishes (and a few zoanthids and other inverts) are front and center in the inaugural line-up of a uniquely different approach to the marine aquarium trade.

Walking the Walk of Sustainability

“We wanted to ‘walk the walk,’” explains Caparatta as he unpacks a stunning hybrid Lemonpeel Angelfish (Centropyge flavissimus). “We wanted to create a company whose ethics and mission statement truly mirror our belief that there can be a healthy, sustainable way to collect fishes and corals. EcoAquariums PNG is a perfect fit for our business model, and we feel that continuing to support organizations like [it] will result in an ornamental fish trade that is viable for many years, respecting not only the reefs themselves and the animals that live there, but the people who make their living collecting from them.”

Fellman, watching a Percula Clown being tanked, below, who most recently worked at Connecticut-based House of Fins, returned to his native Southern California to help launch Unique Corals with Caparatta. Johnny Ciotti, former creative director and photographer at Ecoxotic, is also involved in the new company, which, according to the mission statement, will only support “responsible collectors, aquaculture facilities, coral propagators, fish breeders, and marine scientists who believe that it is possible to have a thriving aquarium hobby/industry and, more important, a healthy marine environment, for future generations to enjoy.” Ciotti is working with Fellman on forging brand identity and creative strategy.

Scott-Percula-Clown 2
The History of PNG’s Marine Aquarium Fishery

While it has had a bit of a rocky history, the PNG marine aquarium fishery remains synonymous with sustainability for many North American aquarists. In 2010, PNG became emblematic of what a growing number of North American aquarists believe is a necessary sea change in how the global marine aquarium trade operates. Based on the collaborative work undertaken by EcoEZ, a US-based environmental consultancy, and PNG National Fisheries Authority (NFA), PNG-based SEASMART emerged on the public stage during the summer of 2010. The PNG marine aquarium fishery promised to become one of only a handful of marine aquarium fisheries—and, notably, the only one in a developing island nation—sustainably managed based on scientific data.

As CORAL Magazine covered in “A New Frontier for Marine Livestock Collection” (July/Aug 2010), SEASMART’s definition of sustainability went well beyond environmental sustainability. For SEASMART, sustainability also meant socio-economic sustainability for fishers and fisher communities, something many aquarists had never contemplated.

There is palpable excitement as people get a glimpse of livestock from the new collection areas in Papua New Guinea. Through having access to PNG, aquarists will start seeing some stunning “new” animals like the so-called Gold Nugget Wrasse (Xenojulis margaritaceus) and a plethora of misbarred clownfishes best exemplified, of course, by the now famous Lightning Maroon Clownfish.

EcoAquariums Picks Up Where SEASMART Left Off

Unfortunately, just as word was getting out to North American hobbyists about SEASMART in September 2010, the three-year trial period, during which SEASMART was heavily subsidized by NFA, was coming to an end. While SEASMART managers hoped to continue to operate collaboratively with NFA in PNG, fisheries managers decided to head in a different direction and privatize the fishery. As a result, for sustainably minded North American aquarists who were now eager to have access to PNG animals, there were no PNG animals available. Industry observers who had hoped PNG’s marine aquarium fishery could be a model and impetus for trade reform, watched anxiously, knowing that privatization of the fishery could go either way. In 2011, NFA announced they would award one export permit to one marine aquarium business, and early that summer, as reported in CORAL, EcoAquariums PNG was announced as the permit holder.

Daniel Navin, an American who had been the mariculture director for SEASMART, is the founding director of EcoAquariums. While the company has already shipped to both Asia and the United Kingdom, this first shipment to the United States is particularly noteworthy for Navin.

“It has been a long time coming and quite the challenge getting fish from Papua New Guinea to the USA,” says Navin, who had initially hoped to have PNG animals in the United States last year. “I am very excited to know that our little fishes from PNG are now available to hobbyists in the USA,” continues Navin, “and I am very excited to gauge the retail market reaction to both the sustainability and traceability aspects of these fish.”

IMG_2685-Bagged-AngelTransparency Lacking in North American Trade

At present, the aquarium animals available to aquarists in North America represent the gamut in terms of sustainability and legality. Because it is so difficult for the aquarist at the point of sale to know the origin of the animal he or she purchases, the reality is that most North American aquarists who have purchased marine fishes, corals and other invertebrates from fisheries around the world have unwittingly supported unsustainable fisheries, destructive fishing practices and illegal activity.

While there are some fisheries, such as those in the smaller developing island nations (e.g., Fiji, Solomon Islands, etc.), where collection is generally sustainable and destructive fishing practices like cyanide use is rare, it often difficult or impossible for the aquarist to know they are purchasing an animal from one of these countries unless, of course, the animal is endemic.

While various certification and labeling schemes (e.g., Marine Aquarium Council certification and Quality Marine’s tank tags) have attempted to address this issue, there is still a distinct lack of transparency in the North American marine aquarium trade.

“This is why what Dan is doing with EcoAquariums is so exciting,” says Fellman holding up an EcoAquariums PNG label taped to a bag with a so-called “PNG naked clownfish.” “Every single animal has one of these tags,” says Fellman, as he prepares to acclimate the fish. “By passing this tag along to the aquarist, they know where the animal originated and how it was collected. That’s a big deal.”

Will People Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is?

The big question, as alluded to earlier by Navin, is how will these sustainably collected animals from PNG be received in the marketplace, and, more pointedly, will aquarists be willing to pay a price premium for them? Given the fishery management procedures, the higher-than-average wage paid to the fishers and the cost of freight from PNG, Unique Corals will need to pass along some of the additional cost with the tag. Fellman believes aquarists will be willing to pay a little more for these animals. After all, this is a model consumers in North America commonly see employed at the grocery store. Whether it be sustainable seafood, cage-free hen eggs, grass-fed beef, fair trade coffee, or any number of other products that are priced somewhat higher than their non-ecolabeled counterparts, consumers in the United States have proven there is enough market share for both “cheap” products and products that may be more consistent with an individual’s personal ethic.

Dale Pritchard is owner and managing director of EcoreefUK Ltd., a wholesaler of marine ornamental fishes and corals in the UK, and he has been actively working to promote and sell EcoAquarium’s fishes in the United Kingdom for the past six months. “It has become clear to me that there is definitely a market for a sustainable option,” he says, “but the most difficult part has been convincing retailers to stock the fish.” Pritchard explains that, for many marine aquarium livestock retailers, it is all about economics. “Success for them is to be able to sell fish cheaper than their competitors down the road.” While Pritchard certainly understands the role of price in driving markets, he strongly believes price should not trump all else. Misbarred Maroon Clown, below, part of first shipment.

Maroon-Clown
“The truth in fact is the most successful retailers are the stores that offer something different with great service and advice,” he says. “The most successful retailers I have visited understand this and will not consider the price as being the primary driver in purchasing decisions.” Pritchard says, in his experience, these retailers tend to have a deeper understanding of the marine aquarium industry and the importance of having a unique selling point.
Pritchard and Unique Corals’ Fellman and Caparatta are hedging their bets on the belief that there are enough customers—both wholesale and retail—who are willing to pay a price premium for a marine aquarium animal with just such a distinguishing selling point. “EcoAquariums makes it easier to show this at the point of sale through their labeling system, which really sets their animals apart,” says Pritchard. At present, the EcoAquariums’ label accompanying every animal exported is the closest thing aquarists have to a now widely available ecolabel.

“Besides being sustainably collected and equitably traded,” explains Navin, “all of our fish come with a serialized waterproof tag that allows each fish to tell a unique story.” Each tag has a specific number that, when entered into the EcoAquariums database, gives the aquarist an ever more complete picture of where the animal originated and its collection and transport to the local fish store.

“The tags come into their own in helping to generate interest and an introduction for storekeepers to talk about the sustainable and ethical nature of EcoAquariums’ operation,” says Pritchard, who adds that aquarists in the UK have been willing to pay a price premium of up to 25 percent more for these animals from PNG. In an industry where devaluing the animals is one of the greatest threats to sustainability, these increased prices are widely thought to be a positive step for the trade.

Real Challenges—and Opportunities—Lay Ahead

Unique Corals plans to launch its website in August, making these and other animals widely available to sustainably minded aquarists across the United States. Southern California aquarists will have an opportunity to view and purchase these animals prior to the official company launch at what Unique Corals is calling a “Sneak Pique” at their Van Nuys facility on Saturday, July 21st.

In addition to the PNG animals from EcoAquariums PNG, there will be a variety of other cultured animals and animals sourced from sustainable collectors available at “exclusive pre-debut prices.” Unique Corals will also be holding a raffle at the event, with proceeds benefitting the Coral Restoration Foundation.

“We know that the real challenge for Unique Corals will be to educate the consumer to chose sustainably-sourced livestock that may cost a little more from known sources, over low priced animals that may have been collected with unethical, non-sustainable practices,” Caparatta tells CORAL after a long day of unpacking the first 15 boxes of PNG animals to arrive in North America in roughly two years. “We believe that a properly educated consumer will make the right choice.”

…and that’s why Unique Corals has already discussed its next order with EcoAquariums.

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July 20, 2012 - 2:53 PM No Comments

New Serenity Eco LED’s

Serenity Eco LED

Serenity Eco LED

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July 13, 2012 - 5:28 PM No Comments

Lightning Maroon Clownfish Spawns

LIGHTNING MAROON CLOWNFISH SPAWNS
First successful hatch after months of frustration

Lightning-w-eggs
Dubbed the Lightning Maroon Clownfish, the aberrant markings may or may not be a genetically transmitted trait. Both members of the pair were collected in the same area of Papua New Guinea. They were coaxed into this first viable spawn by breeder Matt Pedersen in Duluth, Minnesota. The pair are housed in a 30-gallon cube reef aquarium, below.

STAFF REPORT: It has been two long years since an electrifyingly pigmented Maroon Clownfish,Premnas biaculeatus, was collected in Papua New Guinea and exported to the United States. This emblematic clownfish, the only known living specimen and the second of two aberrant Maroon Clownfish collected in Papua New Guinea in the last few years, has captured the hearts and minds of aquarists around the world (see CORAL, July/August 2011). Matt Pedersen, a breeder in Duluth, Minnesota, has been on a quest to get the fish, a female, to spawn but has admitted to many frustrations via hisLightning Project blog.
lightning-tank“In the past few months The Lightning Project has gone from relatively boring stability to dramatic highs and lows,” he says. Pedersen has been battling ongoing chronic maladies in the broodstock pair, having gone as far as to enlist a fish veterinarian to collaborate in troubleshooting this problem. Finally, however, Pedersen reports having succeeded in coaxing the Lightning Maroon and her mate to produce a healthy clutch of eggs after months of fruitless nesting behaviors.
Pedersen says he used a technique referred to as a “double down,” first shared with him by fellow marine fish breeder Mitch “Booyah” May. By placing a spawning tile with eggs from another clownfish pair, a breeder can sometimes stimulate a reluctant pair to produce their own eggs. The Lightning Maroon pair was successfuly enticed into their first small spawn, which was quickly eaten. Extreme disappointment settled in among all aquarists who are following this drama.
In the past two weeks, the Lightning Maroon and her mate have spawned for a second time, this time with an estimated 310 fertile eggs which they did not consume. “Of course, they’ve continued to throw every trick in the book at me,”says Pedersen. “First, more disease problems surfaced during the incubation of the spawn. No sooner was that problem handled, then it was followed by the early hatching of a single larva. This early hatch could have put the rest of the clutch in jeopardy during what could have been a risky, if not disastrous, artificial incubation and hatch.”
As of July 5th, 2012, Pedersen has reached yet another milestone in the breeding project, introducing APBreed TDO, a larviculture feed, as the Lightning Maroon’s offspring near the next critical and risky step in their development: metamorphosis and settlement.

“It is at settlement when Maroon clownfish first reveal their stripes; it may become known if the ‘lightning trait has appeared in this first generation of offspring,” says Pedersen, a CORAL senior editor. “While it may or may not be immediately apparent, the first possible glimmer may be only days away.”

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July 9, 2012 - 7:42 AM No Comments

Promoising New Aquarium Bill in Hawaii

New Bill to Protect & Manage Marine Trade in Hawaii Gains Support

By CORAL Editors - Posted on 27 January 2012

Yellow Tang, Zebrasoma flavescens: at the center of pro- and anti-marinelife collection issues.

2012 looks to be pivotal year for Hawaiian aquarium collectors, activists who would ban them, legislators and marine biologists

By Ret Talbot

A grand, if not astonishing, total of eighteen aquarium-related measures have been introduced into Hawaii’s 2012 legislative session. There are seven new bills, four new resolutions and seven measures carried over from the 2011 legislative session.

Seven of the measures are measures seeking to shut down aquarium fisheries statewide, while the rest of the measures seek to further regulate the aquarium fishery and the aquarium trade in Hawaii.

As CORAL has reported in the past, Hawaii’s marine aquarium trade requires further science-based regulation to be able to demonstrate that it is a well-managed, sustainable, non-destructive fishery. In some cases, fishers and others involved in the trade have been proactive in proposing regulation.

In West Hawaii on the Big Island of Hawaii, where the vast majority of aquarium fishes are harvested, the West Hawaii Fisheries Council has engaged in multi-stakeholder efforts to come up with meaningful regulation. One of this year’s regulatory bills—House Bill 2129 (HB 2129)—originated in West Hawaii through a collaborative process involving fisheries managers, fishers, concerned citizens, and politicians. According to proponents of the Bill, HB 2129 would empower fisheries managers to better manage the fishery through legislation drafted with substantial community input.

Democratic Floor Leader Offers New Bill
Protect trade but regulate it

HB 2129, introduced by Representative Cindy Evans (D) of Big Island, right, is already receiving a lot of attention by both pro-trade and anti-trade individuals. Evans is Democratic Floor Leader and an experienced and respected legislator for the majority party in Hawaii.

The Bill authorizes the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to impose temporary management measures (i.e., bag limits, closed seasons and moratoriums) within the West Hawaii Regional Fisheries Management Area without adhering to the usual administrative rule-making process. It also requires DLNR to establish a limited entry program for commercial aquarium fishers, and it mandates some key changes to the commercial aquarium catch reporting system.

While the Bill is viewed by fisheries managers as an important step toward a better managed, more sustainable marine aquarium fishery, commercial aquarium fishers are split in the their support of the Bill.

Extreme elements of the anti-trade side of the debate, many of whom want a statewide ban on aquarium fishing, do not support HB 2129, as they say it simply does not go far enough.

West Hawaii Fishery: “Already well regulated…”
Unlike most of this session’s aquarium-related bills, which assert the marine aquarium fishery is devastating Hawaii’s reefs, HB 2129 calls the West Hawaii fishery “one of the most well-regulated fisheries within the State” and “one of the best-understood marine ecosystems in the State.”

Acknowledging the data that exists and the fisheries managers already on the resource, HB 2129 seeks to give those fisheries managers the tools they say they need to better manage the fishery based on the data. Paramount amongst these tools is the ability to manage the aquarium fishery and the aquarium fish industry “in real time.”

The Red Tape Factor
At present, adaptive management—managing the fishery as a dynamic resource that sometimes requires timely action based on the best science—is not possible because of the constraints imposed by the administrative rulemaking process outlined in Chapter 91 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes.

“As it stands,” DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) Aquatic Biologist Dr. William Walsh tells CORAL, “Chapter 91 rulemaking is wholly impractical for any adaptive management, since it literally takes years to implement any and all changes within an existing rule or to create a new rule.”

The current efforts to implement approved new rules in the West Hawaii Regional Fisheries Management Area, including the 40-species white list, is one example of how long it can take to implement management when constrained by Chapter 91.

Mixed Support from Fishers

Many aquarium fishers support HB 2129 because they think it is good for the fishery and will allow the people best suited to manage the fishery to actually manage it.

“I support this bill,” says West Hawaii-based aquarium fisher David Dart, “because it gives an option for a complete ban. I believe in real time fish management where the local biologists can adjust take according to fish count.”

Dart has 15 years experience in Alaskan food fisheries, where similar adaptive management has been essential to establishing those fisheries’ reputation as some of the best managed and most sustainable fisheries in the world. Like some others, Dart is disappointed the Bill only relates to the aquarium fishery, as this sort of real time management is needed across all fisheries. For some aquarium fishers, they are frustrated that HB 2129 would put additional restrictions on the aquarium fishery while ignoring major problems on Hawaii’s reefs.

Beyond frustration that HB 2129 unfairly targets the marine aquarium fishery, some fishers express concerns that HB 2129 could be “very harmful” to the trade. Specifically they worry the Bill does not explicitly define the criteria required for putting in place a temporary management measure such as a bag limit, seasonal closure or a moratorium on a particular species.

Additionally, a few fishers have expressed concerns that HB 2129 would eliminate the need for public hearings whenever DLNR desires to change an aquarium fishing rule.

Marine Scientists Favor Bill
Dr. Walsh, left, who helped draft the Bill with Rep. Evans’ office, acknowledges some of the concerns expressed by fishers, but he believes the potential benefits far outweigh the concerns, which he says, in some cases, are unwarranted. Walsh acknowledges HB 2129 would give the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR)—the seven-member DLNR board, which convenes regularly to review and take action on department submittals—the ability to implement certain management changes without adhering to Chapter 91, but he feels there are plenty of provisions in place to stave off abuse.

“[Under HB 2129] the information,” says Walsh, “would have to be persuasive enough for the Board to feel that the management change requested—such as a moratorium on the collection of a certain species—was justified and necessary.”

Walsh also points out the Board meetings are public meetings where people can testify and present their own information.

“So,” he concludes, “there is a fairly high bar established to implement change via board decision—maybe even higher than by rulemaking where only DAR and the general public have a chance to weigh in on a proposed rule or rule change without in-depth BLNR scrutiny or deliberation.”

Fishing Free-for-All Would End
Individuals familiar with the rulemaking process in Hawaii also point out that precedent exists for circumventing Chapter 91 in very specific situations. BLNR, for example, has already done what is proposed in HB2129 in other situations such as the rules concerning the bottomfish fishery and the urchin fishery. 

In both cases, while the authorizing legislation clearly states adopting, amending and repealing pertinent rules is subject to Chapter 91, within each rule there is a provision allowing the Board to implement real-time change such as a temporary moratorium when the data shows it is necessary. In addition to DLNR, other departments, such as the Agriculture Department, already have rules providing for board-level change without Chapter 91 rulemaking.

In addition to enhancing DLNR’s ability to manage the fishery in real time, HB 2129 also would impose a limited entry program for commercial aquarium fishers in the West Hawaii Regional Fisheries Management Area effective January 2014, and it would require some key changes to commercial aquarium catch reports.

While most fishers agree the changes to the reporting system are not bad—aquarium fishers would now need to submit a report by the end of each daily fishing trip—the issue of limited entry remains extremely contentious. In a limited entry fishery, the number of fishers is restricted to balance the amount of fishing effort with the sustainable harvest limits of the fishery.

Building on Success Toward a Better-Managed and More Sustainable Fishery

HB 2129 begins by stating emphatically “the aquarium fishing industry in

West Hawaii is one of the most well-regulated fisheries within the State.” The Bill seeks to build on legislative successes such as the 1998 legislative action that first created the West Hawaii Regional Fisheries Management Area and required the ongoing data collection that has made this fishery such a well-studied fishery.

In acknowledging that “living natural resources…have a variety of factors that determine the health and vibrancy of any individual population,” and in further acknowledging “commercial exploitation may or may not always be involved in the natural fluctuations in a population,” HB 2129 seeks to give real-time decision making ability to those with a comprehensive understanding of the data.

As the Bill states, “The decision to determine cause and effect [between commercial exploitation and changes in the fish populations] should be made by scientists specializing in such cycles.”

“We are long overdue in allowing temporary closures as a means to manage fisheries such as aquarium fish,” Rep. Evans tells CORAL. “I drafted the aforementioned bill in response to the growing concerns in West Hawai’i of the reefs and aquatic life that inhabit them. There needs to be more support for managing our ocean resources. We need to recognize the work of the West Hawaii Fisheries Council. Now is the time to prove that ocean resource management is viable and sustainable.”

Activist Says She is Onboard with Bill
Tina Owens, right with “No Aquarium Collection” sign, of the Lost Fish Coalition and who played a role in drafting HB 2129 tells CORAL she is really proud of HB 2129. Owens is regarded by many as an environmentalist who wants to protect natural resources, but with a better grasp of marine science than other anti-trade activists.

“I really think this is a perfect example that folks can come together and all work for the good of the resource. That’s what it is all about. It’s not about one bunch against another; it’s not about ‘I win, you lose.’ If the resource loses, we all lose. There has been a great deal of cooperation between the aquarium fishers and the resource managers, and I do believe that we have all reached adulthood about this issue.”

The fact that Owens, who at one time was one of the most important voices advocating for a complete ban of Hawaii’s marine aquarium fishery, is now working with fishers, fisheries managers, politicians, and other stakeholders to shape a bill in the best interest of the resource is proof positive that the aquarium debate in Hawaii can be brought back to the level of rational discussion, scientific data and meaningful collaboration.


Ret Talbot is a CORAL senior editor who specializes in sustainabilty issues in the marine aquarium trade.


January 30, 2012 - 7:56 AM No Comments

Seneye is in Australia

Aqua Blue Distribution is proud to announce we are the proud distribution partners in Australia for Seneye.

Introductory video on the Seneye Reef:  Reef video

Please see our web site for more details: Click Here

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January 16, 2012 - 10:19 AM Comment (1)

NEW WEB SITE

We have launched our new WEB SITE

www.aquabluedistribution.com.au

Regards

Tim

October 1, 2011 - 9:50 AM No Comments

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