Conservation Spotlight
Project Piaba: Working toward a sustainable natural resource in Amazon freshwater fisheries

Scott Dowd
Senior Aquarist, New England Aquarium, Central Wharf, Boston, 02110; 617-973-5243;

Michael Tlusty
Aquaculture Specialist, New England Aquarium, Edgerton Research Lab, Central Wharf, Boston, MA, 02110; 617-973-6715;

A non-endangered species has become the focus of an ongoing research project in the Amazon and may prove to be the key to preserving the ecology and way of life for the people of the mid-Rio Negro Basin. The cardinal tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi) is one of the most abundant vertebrates in the Amazon. It is very small fish, reaching a size of about one inch. This species' adaptability to environmental fluctuations has made it extremely resilient and though at least 20 million are harvested annually for the pet trade, the populations have shown no detected decline from the commercial fishery. Project Piaba, coordinated by Dr. Ning Labbish Chao, Professor at the Universidade do Amazonas, is becoming an international model for sustainable development. The Project includes partners from Brazilian agencies, members of the ornamental fish industry, and the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA). The AZA Conservation Partnership; Brazil and the AZA Freshwater Fishes Advisory Group have both made Project Piaba a priority, and have placed it on their action plans.