Harvest, trade and conservation of the Asian Arowana Scleropages formosus in Cambodia
1. The worldwide trade in aquarium fish is a multi-billion dollar industry. One of the most popular and expensive species traded is the Asian arowana Scleropages formosus. As a result of over-harvesting for the aquarium fish trade, S. formosus is now endangered and commercial international trade in the species is prohibited under CITES. Despite this, very little is known about S. formosus in the wild.
2. Interviews were conducted with 62 local villagers at four sites in Koh Kong province, south-west Cambodia, to obtain information on the reproduction, historical and current harvest and trade, and population trends of S. formosus.
3. The spawning season of S. formosus in Cambodia begins towards the end of the dry season (March–April) and is approximately 3 months in duration. Each male mouth-broods an average of 30 juveniles. Harvesters target S. formosus fry and juveniles, and typically kill or frighten brooding males into releasing their offspring in order to harvest them.
4. The prices obtained by harvesters for S. formosus has been increasing since collection began, and currently averages $US11–13 per juvenile. After collection, fish are transported through a series of larger towns, most ultimately bound for Thailand. The current number of S. formosus harvested from the wild in Cambodia is almost certainly highly unsustainable, with all respondents indicating that local S. formosus population abundance had declined dramatically in recent years. It is also likely that a number of populations have already become locally extinct.
5. Strengthening legislation to protect the species within Cambodia, increasing enforcement of cross-border trade, and an investigation into alternative low-impact income generation opportunities for local communities is vital. There is also an urgent need to gather detailed information on the distribution, population abundance and threats facing S. formosus in Cambodia, and in other countries throughout its range.
Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
KEY WORDS: Asian arowana; dragon fish; Scleropages formosus; aquarium freshwater fish trade