22 Apr 2008

Black Market Crustacea

Dear Blue Lobster:

I was reading your web page when I came across a really neat marine shrimp, Lysmata cyanea. I figured that you might know someone that works with this particular species of shrimp or where they originate. Would you be able to help me in acquiring some specimens? Any help with this would be greatly appreciated.

Best Regards,

Dear Gentle Sir:

Many species highlighted in academic research are not part of commercial trade. These species are often rare or endangered or, in the case of new discoveries, not classified or surveyed yet. In other words, there's no commercial access to such species that are so well outside commercial aquarium trade.

That isn't to say there's no way at all to obtain specimens, however.

There is a thriving underground black market for rare and valuable crustaceans driven mostly by private collectors but also fueled in part by academia and museums: unscrupulous collectors and curators and university students, faculty, and staff. In Africa, for instance, importing O. rusticus is quite lucrative as the return on successful aquaculture in Africa is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of euros annually, small change in comparison to other markets, but huge in the scope of source of the specimens.

The sad part about students mixing up with the seedy underbelly of animal trade is that both people and crustaceans die needlessly. Recently, pirates murdered the crew of a ship carrying several tons of O. rusticus; eight are known dead and two are missing. Last June, the crew of a trawler secretly hauling Diamond crabs were killed after engaging in a gunfight with the West African Coast Guard.

Ultimately, such disregard for animal life goes against the tenets of research and objectifying specimens leads to a loss of knowledge and endangerment of those involved, whether they are foolish undergraduates or sunburned pirates. Do not support this illicit trade and instead report it to your local authorities. If an animal is unfamiliar enough to remain outside the aquarium trade, leave it that way.

1 comment:

MJ Klein said...

Can you tell me if any species of tadpole/longtail shrimp live in Taiwan? Thanks!

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