A Little Documentary Of Asian Arowana. A Little Documentary Of Asian Arowana
The Arowana is widely distributed in Southeast Asia - Cambodia, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, and Borneo. There had been local
extirpation of Scleropages famous in some drainages in Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra due to over-collecting, but is still relatively common in some areas. This species has all the features of a Category III species - high value, high demand, relatively initial abundance in the wild. Its biological attributes (low fecundity, oral brooding habit and being an open-water spawner), however, make it a prime candidate for over-exploitation and possible extinction.
Unlike the market for the Bala shark, that for the Arowana is somewhat different. The high cost of each fish, even juveniles, means that it is not a species which is exported in large numbers and to average aquarists. For many years, the Arowana was only occasionally seen in the aquarium trade and the species appeared regularly in markets as a relatively cheap food fish! Its sudden popularity was basically an Asian phenomenon. At some stage, Chinese superstition had it that keeping this fish gave its owner good luck and prosperity. This belief probably partly arose by chance and partly because of the bright red and deep gold colors of some arowanas, which Chinese and Japanese associate with luck. Suddenly, people (especially businessmen) were paying incredible prices to own an arowana so as to have a good luck charm. In the west, the Southeast Asian arowana (and the South American species) are much less popular, although they appear in the trade occasionally.
The relatively smaller market and much higher individual price of each specimen have meant that the stocks of wild Arowana had been less stressed over the short term. Also important is that the Arowana individuals are territorial and are dispersed over a wide area, making their collection difficult. Neither do arowanas migrate or congregate when breeding, thereby reducing risks to their populations. In addition, arowanas are relatively long-lived fishes, often adapting well to captivity, and are usually kept in solitary tanks. The turnover of arowanas is thus very small compared to species like the bala shark. Concurrent with the rapid development of the trade of the arowana of course, was the realisation that the fate of the species might be threatened, especially considering its reproductive biology. This resulted in the species being placed on the CITES list of protected species relatively early. Although CITES is usually ineffective in many areas, it nevertheless served to restrict the trade, and most countries have tried to curtail the trade, even if it is often at face value only.
The large size, mouth-brooding behaviour and high price of arowanas have also spurred efforts for their culture relatively early. In the Kapuas area in western Kalimantan, Indonesia, large farms have been established where the arowana has successfully being bred. Under CITES guidelines, once an endangered species can be bred in captivity, applications can be made for its trade to be allowed on a controlled basis. In Singapore, the successful spawning of the second generation of Scleropages formosus by Rainbow Aquarium Pte Ltd. and the Primary Production Department (PPD) of Singapore has also lead to the controlled sale of this species. The usage of microchip implantations into these Singapore offspring aids in the identification of legal stocks in the trade. However, wild caught specimens still command good prices (depending on the colour variety) and are in high demand, until at least captive bred stocks can meet demand. There is still an extensive illegal trade ongoing (pers. comm. with fish dealers). The prices of the different colour varieties of S. formosus differ greatly. The red and gold varieties can cost from five to ten times more than the green or normal variety (pers. obs.).
It is also important to put issues in perspective. Ten years ago, ad-hoc attempts at captive breeding of arowanas were generally viewed with scepticism. Time, technology and dedication of fish breeders have made this a reality. It is currently heading towards the stage of full commercialisation of breeding arowanas in farms. Perhaps in 10 years time, there will be no more need for the harvest of wild stocks, except perhaps for the occasional specimens to supplement captive stocks to improve their genetic composition. There are also problems with the taxonomic status of Scleropages formosus. The different colour varieties may well represent different species, but there are insufficient preserved specimens with good data for the necessary comparisons. The high price and CITES status of Scleropages formosus also hinders further taxonomic work.
Watch more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQO4aVwAiNc
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