The demand for exotic fish from aquarium owners worldwide has impacted negatively on India's freshwater fish population.
A report by the international journal Biological Conservation has found that between 2005 and 2012, a possible 1.5 million freshwater fish across 30 endangered species were exported from India. This trade - which is valued in excess of 1.6 million USD for the seven year period - has caused untold damage to the biodiversity of India's freshwater fish which at the moment are captured in an unregulated manner.
A report by the Times of India recently stated that the majority of the fish come from areas teeming with biodiversity such as the Western Ghats and eastern Himalayas. The Botia striata and the Red Lined Torpedo Barbs (both considered endangered) as well as the Carinotetraodon travancoricus (vulnerable) have suffered as a result of the loosely-monitored export.
The export of Red Lined Torpedo Barbs is particularly shocking as it is believed that 89,000 fish of this species have been collected during these years. It has been suggested by researchers that the collection of these fish during the breeding season between October and March is a major factor in the decline of the fish.
The destination for these endangered species varies from Singapore (46.83 percent), Hong Kong (30.52 percent) and Malaysia (18.4 percent). However, the exports were not solely restricted to close-by Asian countries as the UK, Germany and Japan were also reported as destinations for the fish. Four of the listed fish were even found on sale in stores in Germany and Singapore in 2010 and also in 2011.
Researchers believe that the sale of such species could be because of mislabelling or even the use of the generic label "live aquarium fish" during trade.
India has the highest level of endemic freshwater fish in continental Asia; however, the unregulated collection of such species needs to be addressed and the report suggests that a framework of increased monitoring and regulation should be introduced. This would not only help the fish thrive but it would also help create a more sustainable aquarium trade industry.
Author: Stephen Walsh/ RESET editorial