15 February 2006

Hundreds of endangered coral reef fish released in Indonesia

Hundreds of humphead wrasse were released back into the waters of the Bunaken National Marine Park after being confiscated from a fisherman who was intending to illegally sell the internationally-protected fish species abroad.

Humphead wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) — also known as the Napolean wrasse — is an endangered species whose trade is regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The species is one of the most valuable fish in the live reef fish trade, and the rarity of this species leads to higher demand and prices (up to US$130/kg retail).

Suspecting the illegal operation for days, police confiscated over 200 specimens of this large coral reef fish, which were found in a cache kept under a net full of live grouper. The fisherman is currently being investigated.

"We are gratefull to the law enforcement authorites," said Luther Papalangi, Head of the Bunaken National Park Authority. "As a result of the action, the park authority will increase patrolling and management of the sustainable use of natural resources, to ensure fish stock for future generations."

Bunaken National Marine Park was formally established in 1991 and is among the first of Indonesia's growing system of marine parks. The park — covers a total surface area of 89,065 hectares — is an important marine area for spawning humphead wrasse. Bunaken also has one of the highest marine biodiversity ecosystems in the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion.

"Populations of this fish species are declining in Indonesia due to the increase of unsustainable fishing practices and over fishing in this area," said Angelique Batuna, WWF-Indonesia's project leader in Bunaken. "It is important to release these [confiscated] fish back to their habitat so as to maintain the ecosystem."

Adult humphead wrasse are identified by thick lips and a prominent hump on their forehead, while juveniles are a light green colour, with two black lines extending from behind the eye. The species changes in body form, colour and sex during its lifetime. Adults are found on the reef during the day. At night they rest in reef caves and under coral ledges. This species reaches a maximum length of more than 2 metres and up to 190kg in weight.

For further information:
Dewi Satriani, Communications Manager
WWF-Indonesia Marine Programme
Tel: +62 21 576 1070
E-mail: DSatriani@wwf.or.id

Source: www.panda.org/news_facts/newsroom


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