A single Bangaii cardinal takes refuge above a Diadema sp. urchin at dusk in “Secret Bay”, Bali, Indonesia where they are an introduced species.
The Banggai cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni), while seemingly ubiquitous to anyone who has recently become involved with marine aquaria, is in fact a relative newcomer to the trade. In 1994 ichythyologist super duo John Randall and Roger Steene “re-discovered” this Indonesian fish (originally described in 1933), and introduced it to the saltwater aquarium world at the MACNA VII conference. Immediately, the Banggai cardinal became a coveted prize for aquarists, and prices for a single fish easily exceeded $100. However, over the coming decade, aquarists happily saw these prices decrease and the supply increase. Unfortunately, it wasn’t well known at the time just how unique and vulnerable their population is in the wild. Currently, the Banggaii cardinalfish is listed as “threatened” by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). This listing does not confer any sort of special protective status to the fish or limit collection/trade.
In June 2007 an effort was made to list the Banggai cardinalfish as a CITES schedule II species, which would require an export permit (like stony corals and seahorses) and an annual limit. The proposal was defeated, but it is unlikely that the issue will disappear from the table anytime soon. In fact, it represents an area where we as marine aquarists are presented with an urgent issue that we can work to turn around if we make informed decisions. The purpose of this article is to examine the natural history, population structure, collection pressures, and why it matters so much to us as marine aquarists to understand the situation.