Media Review: Peppermint Shrimp, International Trade, and From the Periodicals

This column, the first Media
Review for Advanced Aquarist will cover two pieces on highly
significant, related topics for advanced aquarists, and two short
notes from Coral Reefs. The first book is on a
subject that will be of increasing interest and importance – the
aquaculture of organisms of value for marine aquarists. The
second is a draft report of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force
subgroup on the trade in coral and coral reef organisms. As will
be seen, conclusions from the task force report will certainly
serve to focus more attention on the captive breeding of aquarium
species.

Book Cover

How To Raise and Train Your Peppermint Shrimp: A
Hobbyist’s Guide To raising saltwater Aquarium Shrimp From
Egg to Adult.

By April Kirkendoll

(Lysmata Publishing, 7635 SW 56 Avenue #D, Miami, Florida,
33143-5652;
http://www.lysmatapublishing.com/shrimp.html.
Soft cover, $11.95, ISBN 0-9667784-2-1)

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This volume contains 152 pages, illustrated with clear and
helpful line drawings of shrimp life cycle stages and rearing
equipment. There is a bibliography and a useful list of
Aquaculture Suppliers, plus an index.

In spite of its partially comic title and tone, and the
simplicity of its production, April Kirkendoll’s slim volume
is of real significance. Her book provides not only an outline of
the complete life cycle of the valuable peppermint shrimp
Lysmata wurdemanni, but also detailed instructions on
how to bring them through every stage of this cycle , from egg to
reproductive effectiveness.

Her descriptions of specific techniques, as well as her usable
diagrams for simple homemade pieces of equipment, make it
possible for many of you to establish modest but productive
hatcheries. In my experience L. wurdemanni is both a
particularly useful and a decorative minireef citizen. The
shrimp, in two aquariums I’ve had with real Aiptasia
infestations, cleared the problem up in surprisingly short order.
They’re pretty, especially in pairs, and kind of cute when
they come to clean you fingernails when you have your hands in
the tank. They are another organism we can and should stop taking
from the wild.

Kirkendoll warns in her preface, “… this book is not
for beginners. You should already know the basics of
aquarium-keeping, since most of your success will depend on good
water quality.” The remainder of the book goes well beyond
the basics and the compact chapters assume you are familiar with
the ins and outs of maintaining aquariums and the associated
equipment. The first chapter, “Shrimp Biology 101”
outlines the anatomy and provides the necessary technical
vocabulary to discuss the shrimp’s reproduction and life
cycle, and concludes with a diagrammatic overview of its major
molts and stages of development. The next chapter jumps right
into the technical details of “Breeding Peppermint
Shrimp,” starting with obtaining a pair, setting up the
spawning tank and feeding them. She discusses egg laying and
hatching next and then shares the tricks of her larvae collection
method — using the airpump, liter bottle, night light device she
diagrams. I know many of you would enjoy rigging it to your own
standards.

The next section of the book is devoted to the larvae and
their rearing. The author starts with a more detailed
presentation on the stages of larval development and then
discusses outfitting the nursery and caring for the larvae. The
next step is a little more demanding. For example, to feed the
larvae and bring them through their metamorphosis to adulthood,
it is best to establish a brine shrimp hatchery. Kirkendoll gives
excellent advice on establishing and maintaining these cultures.
She also provides valuable tips on alternative foods, basing much
of her work on the pioneering efforts of Martin Moe, as described
in his Raising the Orchid Dottyback. A summary
chapter concludes the main body of the book, with notes on issues
in commercial breeding.

Kirkendoll finishes by documenting her failed attempts to
close the life cycle of L. amboinensis, the Striped
Cleaner shrimp and L. debelius, the Flame shrimp. She
was not able to bring them past the fourth week of larval
development and offers suggestions to those who would attempt to
breed these attractive species. I hope some of you will take up
the challenge. This little book, with its casual and informal
style will help you get up and running.

Book Cover

International Trade in Coral and Coral Reef Species: The role
of the United States.

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Report of the Trade Subgroup of the International Working
Group to the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force. Washington, D.C.

This report contains a total of 51 pages, with 24 pages of
text predominantly in extended outline form, illustrated with
informative tables and graphs. Also included are five important
appendixes; (A) Primary Importers and Exporters of Some Coral
Reef Species, (B) Foreign National Laws Pertaining to Coral
Harvest and Destructive Fishing Practices, (C) U.S. Federal,
State and Territory Laws relating to Coral Harvest/Trade and
Destructive Fishing Practices, (D) Draft Text for Outreach
Material for Marine Aquarists and (E) Members of Trade Subgroup
of International Working Group. There is an index.

The opening Executive Summary of this report puts the
commercial exploitation of coral reefs and coral reef in
perspective, stating, “Many coral reef species and resources
are harvested globally for commercial purposes, including food
fish, the aquarium trade, live fish markets, construction
materials, curios, jewelry, pharmaceuticals and traditional
medicines. International trade in coral, reef fish, live rock and
other coral reef animals are activities that contribute to the
decline and degradation of reefs, primarily through the use of
destructive collection practices and overexploitation of
resources.” Of these, of course, it is the danger to the
aquarium trade organisms and the damage from destructive
collection techniques that we must accept responsibility for,
even as we recognize that other aspects of the exploitation of
reefs are far more destructive. U.S. aquarists have a particular
responsibility because we are the number one consumer of live
coral and marine aquarium fishes (as well as the largest importer
of coral skeletons and coral jewelry). Of an estimated 1.5
million marine aquarium hobbyists worldwide, 1 million are in the
U.S. (p. 9)

Accurate data on the aquarium trade itself and on those
species collected for it are difficult to obtain due to poor
record keeping on collection – partially because no
species of coral reef fish collected for the aquarium trade is
listed as endangered
under CITES (Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species). Based on the data
available at least 800 to 1000 species of fish and 300 species of
invertebrates are collected from the wild – including 15-20
million fish, from 45 countries. Of these almost half are
imported into the U.S., with 2/3’s to 90% coming from
Indonesia and the Philippines. The report states that the
majority of Philippine fish and as much as 90% of Indonesian fish
for the aquarium trade are captured with cyanide, making the U.S.
the major importer of cyanide-caught aquarium fish (p. 7). Heavy
collection pressure itself has a destructive impact. Two 1999
studies from Kona, Hawaii (where I live) indicate a significant
impact on the 10 most collected species, with declines of 38-59%
in a 10-year period. There is very little information on the
harvest of invertebrates such as soft corals, anemones,
crustaceans and molluscs not covered by CITES, with most of these
also headed for the U.S. market.

The report lists other dangers and problems associated with
collection: most collected species are herbivores that control
benthic algae, mortality figures from source reefs to home
aquaria have been found to be as high as 90%, some collected
species have poor survival rates in captivity, and economic
incentives lead to the collection of rare and difficult to
capture species such as deep-water fishes.

The Trade Subgroup makes a number of recommendations to the
U.S. Coral Reef Task Force. With respect to other nations with
coral reefs, these include: (1) continued active participation in
international and regional organizations concerned with
exploitation of coral reef species (2) expanded capacity to
collect data, assess reef status, evaluate impacts of collection
and enforce regulations (3) development and implementation of
sustainable management, environmentally sound collection
techniques and certification programs (4) establishment of
alternatives such as aquaculture and coral farming.

For the U.S., the report suggests: (1) improved enforcement of
regulations regarding coral species trade, including
certification that organisms were not taken through destructive
practices (2) development of educational material to raise
domestic consumer awareness to ensure that demand for marine
organisms does not contribute to the decline of reef species and
the degradation of coral reef ecosystems (3) encouragement of
alternatives to wild collection (4) development, with the marine
aquarium industry, of practices to reduce mortality rates and
improve product quality to ensure survival in captivity (5)
prohibition of domestic harvest and collection by defined
destructive techniques.

Many of us have been aware of the “dark side” of our
hobby, and many voices have been raised at meetings and in
publications with respect to these problems. Unscrupulous
merchants in the chain from the wild reef to aquarium have made
us an easy scapegoat for the decline of the reefs. If we
don’t take immediate steps to demand that our love of coral
reefs not lead to the detriment of the creatures we want to
nourish and protect, regulatory agencies will declare our
activities illegal. Here in Hawaii public sentiment is sharply
against collection. All taking or possession of live rock and
stony corals is prohibited, and in Kona, one-third of the
coastline, designated as “fish replenishment areas,” is
closed to fish collection. If fish population statistics
don’t show positive effects from this strategy, collection
may become illegal. I will have accurate data on the
effectiveness of this approach in the near future.

There is a bright side too, and opportunity. We must intensify
our efforts to raise more species through aquaculture. You can
start with Peppermint shrimp.

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From the Periodicals

“Do color patters of Pocillopora damicornus
reflect Zooxanthellae diversity?” by Jr-Kai Yu et. al. from
Coral Reefs, March 2000, Vol 19, #1, pg
98-99.

Analysis indicates no statistical differences in zooxanthellae
gene types or density between pink and brown morphs. The depth
distribution differed markedly, however, with the brown morph
found predominantly in very shallow habitats. The pink morph
possesses the pigment pocilloporin which is associated with slow
growth rates and “superior competitor ability.” On the
basis of this finding, the authors question the taxonomic
identity of the two P. damicornus morphs.

“Coral crabs influence the feeding patterns of
crown-of-thorns starfish” by M. Pratchett, E. Vytopil and P.
Parks from Coral Reefs, March 2000, Vol 19, #1,
pg. 36.

Crabs of the genus Trapezia live in association with
pocilloporid corals; Tetralia only in Acropora. “In
feeding experiments where crabs were removed from all coral
colonies we found that Acanthaster planci
(crown-of-thorns starfish) consumed both Acropora nasuta
and Pocillopora damicornis in equal numbers. When
Tetralia and Trapezia crabs were present in
their respective host species, A. planci consumed all
the A. nasuta colonies but never consumed P.
damicornis
.” The Trapezia crabs were more
effective in their defense, breaking off thorns at the pedicle.
The Tetralia crabs pinched at the starfish’s tube
feet, doing little damage.

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 Doug Robbins

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