Banggai Cardinalfish to be Listed Under Endangered Species Act

A Banggai Cardinalfish in the Banggai Islands | Source: Ret Talbot

A Banggai Cardinalfish in the Banggai Islands | Source: Ret Talbot

Today the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) posted for public inspection its final rule to list the Banggai cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). When the final rule goes into effect, the species will be the first saltwater aquarium fish to be listed under the ESA. As such, most of the opposition to a listing has come from the aquarium trade. Because the Banggai cardinalfish will be listed as “threatened” and not “endangered,” no immediate changes will occur in terms of trade or possession. At some point in the future, however, NMFS may initiate a rulemaking process under section 4(d) of the ESA, which could limit or end the trade in the species, including aquacultured fish.

Since its re-discovery by the aquarium trade in the mid-1990s, the Banggai cardinalfish rapidly became one of the most popular saltwater aquarium fishes, consistently ranking amongst the top 10 most imported marine aquarium fish species. As of 2013, the majority of US demand for the species was being met by commercial aquaculture, signaling a dramatic shift away from fish harvested from the wild. While NMFS acknowledges “the threat of overharvest has been and will likely continue to be reduced in the future,” the agency finds that the synergistic effect of all threat factors, including a decade of overutilization and, most notably, ongoing habitat destruction in the species’ extremely limited native range, places the Banggai cardinalfish at a moderate risk of extinction and justifies the listing.

The final rule is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register tomorrow (1/20/2016) and will go into effect 30 days later. Stay tuned for comprehensive coverage in CORAL Magazine.

Banggai Cardinalfish Timeline

1920 — Walter Kaudern collects the first two known Banggai cardinalfish specimens.

1933 — Frederik Koumans describes the species for the first time in the scientific literature.

1994 — Dr. Gerry Allen “re-discovers” the species.

1995 — The fish is introduced to the saltwater aquarium hobby at the Marine Aquarium Conference of North America (MACNA) in Louisville.

1996 — Article in Tropical Fish Hobbyist paints the species as an ideal saltwater aquarium fish.

2004 — Some scientists, most notably Dr. Alejandro Vagelli, begin to express serious concerns about overfishing.

2007 — The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List lists the Banggai cardinalfish as “endangered.”

2008 — A group of concerned aquarium hobbyists led by Eric Borneman and supported by the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America (MASNA) encourage aquarists to take action by boycotting wild-caught Banggai cardinalfish.

2008 — 146,982 Banggai cardinalfish are imported to the US for the aquarium trade, making it the 10th most imported marine aquarium fish.

2011 — 125,500 Banggai cardinalfish are imported to the US for the aquarium trade, but despite the decrease in overall number imported (trade-wide decrease in imports is generally attributed to the economic downturn), the species actually increases in rank becoming the 8th most imported marine aquarium fish.

2013 (July) — WildEarth Guardians petitions the NMFS to list the Banggai cardinalfish, along with 80 additional marine species, under the ESA.

2013 — Quality Marine, the largest importer of marine aquarium fishes in the country, imports ~120,000 aquacultured Banggai cardinalfish from Thailand, demonstrating the success of the first commercial aquaculture operation producing Banggai cardinalfish at a scale capable of meeting upwards of 75% of the average total import volume.

2014 (February) — NMFS finds, in its 90-day Finding, that the WildEarth Guardians petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing the species may be warranted.

2014 (August) — NMFS publishes a comprehensive, peer-reviewed 36-page status review of the species based on the best available scientific information at the time of consideration.

2015 (December) — A Proposed Rule to List as Threatened under the ESA is published in the Federal Register.

January 2016 — NMFS publishes its final rule listing the Banggai cardinalfish as “threatened” under the ESA.




About Ret Talbot

Ret Talbot is a freelance writer who covers fisheries at the intersection of science and sustainability. His work has appeared in publications such as National Geographic, Mongabay, Discover Magazine, Ocean Geographic and Coral Magazine. He lives on the coast of Maine with his wife, scientific illustrator Karen Talbot.
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