Launching the SOS

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Support Our Shoal campaign - An industry-wide approach to conservation

It probably won’t come as a shock to hear that wild freshwater fish are in trouble. You may have seen the cold statistics that one in three freshwater fish species are threatened with extinction, and that the planet has lost 84% of its wild freshwater fish population since 1970.
   Numbers like this can make you feel numb inside, and powerless to step up and help. 

But the aquarium hobby and associated businesses are perfectly placed to be key players in the fight to find answers to these challenges, and now an industry-wide solution has been launched to provide a trustworthy platform for individuals and businesses to contribute to impactful conservation programmes. 

The SOS: Support Our Shoal campaign offers a simple, effective route for the hobby to raise awareness and channel urgent funding, with the guarantee that donations will actively protect and recover wild populations of the species that bring aquarists around the world so much joy. 

Developed with guidance from Practical Fishkeeping and the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA), SOS: Support Our Shoal puts the power squarely in the hands of the people that make our hobby so diverse and exciting. Yes, that means you! With your deep emotional and financial investments for your fish, it makes perfect sense to collaborate with you on caring for the fish species in the wild. 

So, how will it work?

SOS: Support Our Shoal will be the umbrella for individual conservation projects. The first is to save the Endangered Red line torpedo barb Sahyadria denisonii, otherwise known as the Denison’s barb, the Roseline shark, and Miss Kerala. For this project, the species has been given a story: Denise is the name given to an aquarium Denison’s barb. Denise is happy in her aquarium home, as she has responsible owners. But she is concerned about her friends in the wild, as they are threatened with extinction. The ‘Save Denise’s Friends!’ campaign will run for two years and will result in the species’ most important wild habitats being protected, along with ensuring that any livestock harvesting is legal, sustainable, and supportive of local community economies. 

Local Indian fishing communities will be trained to improve their collection and fishkeeping methods, and an awareness-raising programme will be launched to engage the Indian public and government in how to safeguard the species. 

Furthermore, staff will be trained in the five Indian airports where the barb is exported, to recognise the species and monitor the number of fishes leaving for export. 

Who’s on board? 

There are five key audiences to engage with the fundraising: retail businesses selling items for the aquarium hobby, manufacturers making goods for the hobby, fish breeders/wholesalers/importers, public aquariums, and aquarium hobbyists themselves. 

Retailers are advised they have a freedom to work with the methods that are most effective for them. When they successfully raise funding, they can display Shoal’s logo on their products and boast that they are ‘Proud to Support Our Shoal’.  

Mike Baltzer, Shoal’s executive director, said: “The launch of the SOS: Support Our Shoal campaign is a rallying cry to those who care about what is happening to freshwater species and want to be part of the solution. This is an exciting, watershed moment for freshwater species conservation.
As the world’s first global initiative committed to the conservation of freshwater species, Shoal provides a bridge between the aquarium hobby and impactful conservation work around the world. It welcomes partnerships with anyone who cares for freshwater species. We need businesses and individuals to show their support to help us push on and get some wonderful conservation work done. We urge you to get involved”. 

To really make a meaningful difference to bending the curve of freshwater extinctions, it will take a hobby-wide approach. SOS: Support Our Shoal provides a long-overdue platform to help sustain and grow the hobby, by demonstrating the clear commitment of the hobby to sustainability and biodiversity conservation. 

Through SOS: Support Our Shoal, we together have the power and the passion to make the difference for fish in the wild. They need us now. The time has come for us to do more.

With careful management, Sahyadria can be sustainably harvested from its native rivers. 

How can you get involved? 

Individuals can help in a number of ways:  

  • Visiting the SOS: Support Our Shoal area of Shoal’s website: shoalconservation.org/SOS
  • Donating to the Save Denise’s Friends! fund via the link on the website. 
  • Asking your local aquatics shop to promote the Save Denise’s Friends! campaign, which will raise vital awareness and funding. There are asserts, including posters and flyers, on Shoal’s website which can be printed off and shared with participating shops. 
  • Engaging with the campaign on social media. Follow @Shoal_Org
  • on Twitter, and use the #SupportOurShoal and #SaveDenisesFriends hashtags. 
  • Discussing Save Denise’s Friends! with your fish-loving friends.
  • Learning more about the species, particularly if you’re thinking of buying a Red line torpedo barb. 

Businesses are encouraged to launch fundraising mechanisms to contribute to the Save Denise’s Friends fund. Some ideas for how they could do this include:

  • Asking consumers if they would like to round up their purchase to the closest £1, with the extra profits going towards the fund. 
  • Adding a 1% conservation levy on sales. 
  • Formalising a conservation partnership with Shoal, as OASE did in mid-November.
  • Get in touch with Shoal for more information: [email protected].