Ascension Island is an extremely remote reef found literally in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. As part of the British Overseas Territory, the island is used by the Royal Air Force as well as the US Air Force. Ascension Island, along with its sister island, St.Helena, are also home to some beautiful endemic reef life, the most famous citizen being resplendent angelfish.
In the 80s, Ascension Island fishes would occasionally trickle into the aquarium trade. The island government soon banned the export of its sealife due to concerns about the exploitation of the tiny island’s natural resources. Now the British government has announced the southern half of the island will become a marine reserve, with the northern half a monitored tuna only fishery. The announcement comes on the heels of other marine reserves established in the past few years including Easter Island and Palau.
While some reefkeepers may lament never being able to acquire a beautiful resplendent angelfish, the designation as a marine reserve is well deserved and should be applauded. The Ascension Island is a natural world treasure of endemic reef life, and because it is so small, exploitation is a real threat. Case in point: The World Conservation Union (IUCN) placed the resplendent angel on its Red List of Threatened Animals in 1996. It is the only marine angelfish to have ever made IUCN’s list. It was only recategorized in 2009 to “Least Concern” after the government banned collection/export of its sealife.
Resplendent angelfish has been successfully bred in captivity by RTC Hawaii for the aquarium trade. In 2012, RTC changed their focus to applied research instead of commercial aquaculture itself. We are not aware if any breeding program for these angelfish is currently in operation.