Conservation and trade of Hypancistrus zebra

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Jools
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Conservation and trade of Hypancistrus zebra

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de Sousa, L. M., Lucanus, O., Arroyo-Mora, J. P., & Kalacska, M. (2021). Conservation and trade of the endangered Hypancistrus zebra (Siluriformes, Loricariidae), the most trafficked Brazilian fish. Global Ecology and Conservation, e01570. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2021.e01570

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/a ... 9421001207
Highlights
  • Captive breeding by aquarists started in the early 90 s and commercially since 2000s
  • Illegal fishing and trafficking are responsible for the decreasing population
  • The large numbers of trafficked H. zebra threaten its survival in the wild
  • The majority of trafficked specimens are sent to China
  • Many captive bred specimens are shipped worldwide under CITES from Indonesia
Abstract
[clog]Hypancistrus zebra[/clog], also known as the zebra pleco, is a small sucker-mouth catfish endemic to the Xingu River in Brazil where its survival in the wild is threatened by habitat modification and overfishing for the ornamental fish industry. It is a highly sought-after freshwater ornamental species and one of the most commonly trafficked from Brazil. To date, little is known about its global legal and illicit supply chains within the ornamental fish trade. Through a mixed methods approach (i.e., online survey, key informant interviews and web scraping), we examined the trade and trafficking of this species as well as the awareness of the international aquarist community and local and international stakeholders regarding its conservation. We also establish the historical timeline of zebra pleco keeping and breeding in captivity and assess whether commercial captive breeding can play an important role in the conservation of this species. The retail price of the zebra pleco increased worldwide after an export ban in 2004 but have since decreased to an average of $US 155 (+/- $US 23 based on geographical location) per fish. Fishermen have been consistently paid relatively little ($US 7-60) for each specimen compared to the average wholesale price of $US 100 (+/- $US 94 over time). We conservatively estimate ~100,000 specimens are trafficked out of Brazil annually, of which half or more die in transport, and only a small fraction is seized by law enforcement in Brazil or internationally. The fishes are primarily smuggled from Brazil to Peru and Colombia and then exported internationally with the majority sent to China. The majority of aquarists (representing 35 countries) are aware the zebra pleco is both endangered and highly endemic. There was less awareness that buying wild caught specimens shipped from Peru, Colombia or elsewhere implies supporting wildlife trafficking. Nevertheless, nearly three quarters of respondents preferred aquarium bred specimens, if available. The zebra pleco is being bred in captivity in high numbers in several countries, yet in Brazil it remains illegal to keep in private aquaria or to commercially breed them. Given the large success of hobby and commercial breeders around the world, H. zebra is well suited for indoor breeding facilities. We argue that implementing regulated local breeding facilities in Brazil, to increase the already large numbers reproduced in captivity worldwide, could decrease the demand for trafficked specimens, one of the primary factors threatening its survival. Given its iconic status among freshwater fishes it should be recognised as a flagship species of the Xingu River’s conservation.
  • Keywords: zebra pleco, captive breeding, Belo Monte, flagship species, wildlife trade, trafficking, CITES
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