Pet Connections

Who Cares

An Introduction into Conservation

For many of us involved in aquarium societies, BAP, or Breeder’s Awards Program; is well-known for encouraging the proliferation of aquarium species to share with other hobbyists in our communities. However, many may not be familiar with an international program that encourages the participation of local aquarium clubs and their members.

Founded in 2004, CARES (CONSERVATION, AWARENESS, RECOGNITION, RESPONSIBILITY, ENCOURAGEMENT, EDUCATION, SUPPORT and SHARING) program focuses on the preservation of critically endangered aquatic life due to deforestation, pollution, and invasive species encroachment in ecosystems that are greatly compromised. The goal is to encourage hobbyists to devote an aquarium or two to fish that are critically endangered. Successful spawns are then shared among the community where, in turn; populations of these species are maintained for future generations and possible reintroduction back into natural habitats.

FRESHWATER FISH ARE AMONG THE MOST THREATENED GROUP OF VERTEBRATES ON EARTH, SCIENTISTS ESTIMATE THAT ONE IN THREE ARE THREATENED WITH EXTINCTION.

Dr. Paul V. Loiselle: “The hobbyists now play a critical role in the favorable outlook of conservation priority fishes. If each one of us dedicates at least one aquarium with the intent of devoting that tank space to a species at risk, the aquarium hobby as a whole has the opportunity to make a major impact in ensuring a positive future for these fishes.”

An example of reintroduction of a species would be the recent program initiated over the fall of 2022, when Skiffia francesae was reintroduced back into it’s native waters of the Teuchitlan River in Jalisco, Mexico. Skiffia francesae, also known as the Golden Skiffia; was declared extinct in the wild in 1996. However, captive populations continued to be available through the aquarium hobby. Through captive breeding programs and ten years of restoration work to remove threats to the ecosystem that would prevent successful reintroduction, Skiffia francesae has come home. It is the hopes of those who initiated this program that the outcome is as successful as the program regarding Zoogoneticus tequila.

Zoogoneticus tequila, the Tequila Splitfin; reintroduction project was initiated six years ago to reintroduce the species back to the Teuchitlan River. The Tequila Splitfin project was cited as an exemplary case study by the ICUN, the global conservation authority.  The Tequila Splitfin was declared critically endangered on the ICUN Red List in 2009.  However, since the success of reintroduction, a reassessment of the species in 2018 now declares the species as endangered.  These two projects exemplify why it is so important for the work of organizations such as C.A.R.E.S. and The Goodeid Working Group continue to thrive and educate our communities regarding the importance of maintaining these species.

Like many of you, I have enjoyed the aquarium hobby for years.  I was taking care of my first ten gallon of tetras at four years old.  For decades, I have enjoyed countless hours of watching my fish in an environment that I created.  However, over the last few years, my direction has changed.  I now find a new meaning and purpose to my hobby, CONSERVATION.  I currently breed and maintain fourteen different species of threatened or critically endangered fish. (Most of which comprise the family Goodeidae.) I now find joy in sharing bloodlines of these fish with other hobbyists so that they can experience the fascinating behaviors of these wild fishes. The goal is to continue the maintenance of these fishes in our hobby for future generations and possible reintroduction projects.

I am certain that many of us can agree that our hobby has come under scrutiny over the last few years.  Special interest groups continue to push for legislation that would significantly diminish the aquarium hobby as we know it.  It is my contention that these forms of legislation will only hamper the potential outcomes of reintroduction programs such as those of Skiffia francesae and Zoogoneticus tequila.  To those groups that feel that our hobby is cruel or that our hobby places ecosystems at risk,  I submit the data from these two successful programs.  Reintroduction programs that epitomize the work conservation.

If you found this article of interest, I encourage you to reach out to your local aquarium societies, such as GPASI; and register to participate in the C.A.R.E.S. program.  For more information regarding the C.A.R.E.S program, visit their website : https://caresforfish.org

Edward R. Moats
Smock, Pennsylvania
Greater Pittsburgh Aquarium Society

REFERENCES:

https://caresforfish.org ; accessed:2/9/23.

https: Mongabay.com:Amid Mexico’s Day of the Dead, a fish declared extinct comes back to life; Liz Kimbrough, 11/08/22; accessed: 2/9/23

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