> What is it about the attempted sale of an individual Chinese sturgeon that has
> us so upset? If I had attempted to sell an endangered Mexican goodeid, would
> the reaction have been the same? Why or why not?
Those are good questions. Here are my answers:
First of all, it's not the fact that it's a sturgeon per se that has angered
some. It's the fact that it's a CITES II listed species. Tiger, elephant,
Komodo dragon, Chinese sturgeon -- it doesn't matter. I'm a bit fuzzy on my
CITES regs, but I believe people are allowed to possess CITES II species if
the country of export (in this case, China) has authorized the exportation.
The fact that the seller is flaunting the rarity and illegality of his fish
only exacerbates the situation.
Now if you had attempted to sell an endangered Mexican goodeid, yes, there
are still legal and ethical questions to consider. But-in-least the size and
life history parameters of goodeids make them conducive to reproduction in
small aquaria. (And, indeed, several goodeid species are now "arked" in
captive breeding programs, some of which have spilled over into the hobby.)
With the possible exception of Pseudoscaphirhynchus in exceptionally large
aquaria, sturgeons will not and cannot spawn in aquaria. Their size, their
slow maturity and episodic spawning intervals, and unique life history
parameters that rely on seasonal migrations through large river systems,
makes it effectively impossible to induce sturgeon spawning in captivity.
The only way to breed sturgeon is through artificial means (injection of
pituitary extract to promote ovulation and production of milt, surgical
removal of eggs from females and extracting milt from males with a syringe,
fertilizing the eggs in a steel bowl, etc.). Considering the low numbers of
sturgeons in the wild, removing just one specimen for the home aquarium can
be exceedingly detrimental.
If Moon's forensic analysis is correct and the seller is attempting to pass
off hatchery raised white sturgeon as Chinese sturgeon -- well, caveat
emptor, I guess. And I hope the buyer has a big tank. White sturgeon can get
up to 20 feet long in the wild.
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