Worrying trend in Peru fish exports

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Ornamental fish exports in Peru have been the subject of a recent study, and a worrying trend towards the export of species biologically unsuited to heavy exploitation has been identified.

Publishing their results in the most recent issue of the journal Environmental Conservation, Marie-Annick Moreau of University College London and Oliver Coomes of McGill University examined the ornamental fish export trade in Peru for 2001 and found an increasing trend towards exporting large species with low fecundity (eg stingrays and Silver arowanas) and small, geographically restricted species (eg Apistogramma species) for new Asian and European markets.

The Peruvian ornamental fish export industry was found to be growing since the mid-1990s, after more than a decade of stagnation.

In 2001, 28 firms in the trade were identified, officially exporting over nine million fishes worth US$ 2.5 million to 24 countries.

The top ten most important species exported from Peru according to sales value were: Silver arowana ,Osteoglossum bicirrhosum; Redtail catfish, Phractocephalus hemioliopterus; Tiger-striped catfish, Brachyplatystoma tigrinus; Motoro stingray, Potamotrygon motoro; Striped otocinclus, Otocinclus spp.; Leopard corydoras, Corydoras trilineatus; Zebra otocinclus, Otocinclus cocama; Tiger ray, Potamotrygon menchacai; Bleeding heart tetra, Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma, and Pictus catfish, Pimelodus pictus.

According to the authors: Our study points to an important resurgence in the trade, with growing emphasis on the capture for export of high-value species that are vulnerable to heavy exploitation.

Such trends, coupled with economic importance of the trade for fisherfolk, many of whom count among the rural poor, pose significant challenges for species conservation, similar to those faced for other aquatic biological resources that are harvested artisanally.

For more information, see the paper: Moreau, M-A and OT Coomes (2007) Aquarium fish exploitation in western Amazonia: conservation issues in Peru. Environmental Conservation 34, 12"22.