The 'Holy Grail of Ornamental Fish' Is Disappearing
Experts believe the Banggai cardinalfish only has a few years left in the wild
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 17, 2016 12:58 PM CDT
Banggai cardinalfish are disappearing from the wild due to their popularity in aquariums.   (AP Photo/Dr. Scott M. Lieberman)

(Newser) – The Banggai cardinalfish—the "holy grail of ornamental fish"—may soon disappear from the wild due to its popularity in aquariums, according to an in-depth piece from National Geographic. The tiny fish lives only in a 9-square-mile area of Indonesia, and yet fishermen were catching at least 2,000 of them every day in 2001. That number is still believed to be in the four digits despite an estimated 90% decline in the Banggai cardinalfish population between 1995 and 2005. The fish are extremely easy to catch, as they hang out in stationary groups in shallow water. Fisherman can catch a hundred of them in a minute or so.

Banggai cardinalfish are one of the few reef fish that can be bred in captivity. But one of the most successful breeding programs can only produce about 150 fish per year, which isn't nearly enough to meet high demand. Experts believe the Banggai cardinalfish only has a few more years before it's extinct in the wild. New protections for the fish will be considered later this month, but Indonesia has squashed such protections in the past and is expected to oppose them again, arguing against the US and Europe that it can handle the situation itself. Meanwhile, the fishermen themselves are eager for the protections, which they believe will save the fish and, therefore, their livelihoods. Read the full piece here.