'Buy a fish, save a tree' project may work with Puntius denisonii

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Scientists in Brazil, India and the USA are working on a campaign encourages which people to buy sustainably caught, wild rainforest ornamental fish in order to provide a living for indigenous peoples.

The ~Buy a fish, save a tree campaign was originally set up by Scott Dowd who works for the New England Aquarium together with Professor Ning Labbish Chao of the Federal University of Amazonas in Manaus, Brazil.

The campaign aims to highlight the work and importance of Project Piaba; a community-based project that was set up in 1989 to conserve and maintain a river-based ornamental fishery focussed on the Cardinal tetra Paracheirodon axelrodi, at a commercially feasible, ecologically sustainable level.

Puntius denisoniiThe key scientists are now also involved in talks with Dr Rajeev Raghavan from the Conservation Research Group in Kerala to set up a similar sustainable project for the popular Red-line torpedo barb Puntius denisonii in the Western Ghats of India.

This species is increasingly under threat by unregulated fishing practises and this project would mean far more control over the way in which this species is being fished.

LivelihoodIn the Brazilian rainforest, the harvesting of species such as the Cardinal tetra has, until recently, provided a living for nearly 60% of the native people living in a 50,000 square mile area in Barcelos, around the Rio Negro river. Nearly 40 million cardinals are being sustainably caught and exported every year.

Now after more than 50 years of wild collection, captive bred cardinals are becoming increasingly popular. The consequences of this are far reaching and go beyond affecting just the aquarium trade.

Catching these fish in the wild provides the local people with an income that is easy to obtain and means that they do not have to resort to logging, mining, cattle ranching, and slash-and-burn agriculture to support their families.

In a way, these wild caught fish are preventing deforestation, say the Project's founders.

Dowd told Practical Fishkeeping: "We are very excited about this project. The 'Buy a fish, save a tree campaign' has been around for a while and we feel we can now share our expertise.

The situation in India is more difficult as it is altogether more developed than the area in Brazil.

"However, if we could set up small pilot projects to assess the impact that a sustainable fishery similar to Project Piaba then we could maybe alleviate poverty, preserve an ecosystem and protect forests all at the same time."

Practical Fishkeeping will be covering the project in more detail over the following months.