Illegal Arowana Trade Implications: Lifting the Ban on Responsibility

Illegal Arowana Trade Implications:  Lifting the Ban on Responsibility

The history of Asian Arowanas Scleropages formosus and CITES is well known by most Arowana enthusiasts. Their Appendix I classification has restricted and regulated their commercial trade for decades. The success in captive-breeding Arowanas by CITES certified farms throughout Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore resulted in a relax in the international ban on their export years ago. Today, their CITES status no longer impedes access to captive-bred Arowanas. Thanks to the painstaking efforts of CITES certified farms, many hobbyists throughout the world now have access to legally imported, captive-bred, quality Asian Arowanas.

But for many Arowana fans including those in the United States, Asian Arowanas are still off limits due to Endangered Species classifications. It is illegal to possess, sell or import Asian Arowanas in the U.S. and several other countries. Frustrations with what many view as antiquated or unnecessary laws has contributed to illegal trade operations in many if not all of these locations. Such illegal trade does immeasurable harm to Arowanas in ways few engaging in it stop to consider.

What Harm Can it Do?

Think it can’t hurt to buy your self just one illegal Arowana? It depends on how you define “hurt,” and how much responsibility you’re willing to take for the implications of your actions.

Considering smuggling a legally obtained, captive-raised specimen from a neighboring country? How many times is this likely to be permitted before that country restricts Arowana imports? What international message is sent when countries legally importing Arowanas fail to regulate populations?

Consider, too, that micro-chipping and CITES certification ensures each legally exported and imported Arowana can be traced to its farm of origin. Despite costly, stringent efforts on the part of farms to abide by international laws, illegal trade ultimately undermines all attempts at distribution. Where did your illegal, captive-bred Arowana come from? How would the farm feel about you illegally possessing one of their tediously bred and raised Arowanas?

Smuggling a captive-bred Arowana may not directly compromise wild populations. But having to chase after captive-bred Arowana smugglers detracts from the resources of enforcement agencies. While you are monitored and eventually caught and prosecuted for smuggling a legally traded, captive-bred Arowana, how many illegally exported or wild-caught specimens were sold unchecked while you engaged enforcement officers?

Passion and Patience Breed More than Conscience

While you (myself, and many others) may not agree with the laws restricting access to Asian Arowanas, consider the implications such restrictions have had in the past. Were it not for their initial CITES classification, the captive breeding of Asian Arowanas would most likely never have evolved to its present level of success. It is doubtful micro-chipping and the science of genetics now protecting and enhancing Arowana quality would have developed. When wild populations became extinct, our access to Arowanas would have been restricted for all time.

The Arowana farming industry has made remarkable and unprecedented strides in not only breeding, but developing the ultimate in Arowana care products and practices. As a result, more quality information and support is available to hobbyists than ever before. Not only are they supplying the best quality Arowanas the world can produce, CITES certified farms are now ensuring the world takes good care of them!

Farming research and practices continue to develop and expand to serve the recently expanding Arowana market. Their efforts benefit both Arowanas and enthusiasts on a massive, worldwide scale. Perhaps more good can come to light if the gradual lifting of remaining Arowana bans keeps a pace in sync with the current farming industry’s high standards and best practices. Like illegal trade, unscrupulous or compromised legal breeding and trade can be of no benefit to Arowanas in the long run.