Governmental Laws and Regulations
This is to date the most effective solution to the issue of the overexploitation of freshwater fishes due to aquarium trade is the implementation of laws and regulations by the government. As we have discussed in the tragedy of commons, people are inherently selfish and will only act upon what is most beneficial to them. Thus, implementing governmental laws such as imposing restrictions on the amount and size of aquarium fish that could be collected and giving disincentives and fines for overexploitation of freshwater fishes and capturing beyond limit stated by the law, especially for species that are overexploited. Also, minimum size limits could be enacted if too many small fish of a certain species are over collected.
This method will definitely not find favour with the aquarists and those involved in the economic side of the trade. However, if the situation continues to deteriorate, it is only needed to pass laws that limit the ability of aquarists to purchase certain species that are at risk in the wild.
Presently, an example of an organization that has been actively in the conservation efforts in the aquarium trade is the Marine Aquarium Council (MAC). It is a non-profit organization that has successfully created certification programs at 21 fisheries across the world, including the Philippines and Indonesia. They establish standards and certification which includes sustainable collection practices and no-take zones to safeguard tropical fish populations against over-harvesting to ensure that the aquarium trade is safe and sustainable. Also, MAC aims to cooperate with governmental organizations to meet the hobbyist demand for sustainable and certified products, the implementation of penalty system for negligent exporters, importers, and retailers.
Captive breeding is a popular conservation method used to help minimize the exploitation of freshwater fishes by breeding species in captivity so that the wild population will not be endangered. However, it is still a question mark if captive breeding is the best solution to the issue as we explore the different sides of it.In 2002, the Dragon Fish is listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List and CITES stated that trade in wild-caught specimens for economic purposes is banned. Instead, CITES implemented a system that allows trade in captive-bred specimens from registered agencies where specimens can be micro-chipped, so that illegal trade could not be hidden. This seems to be advantageous to the population by not endangering it further. However, it seems to be not beneficial for the trade to maintain the wild habitat.
From a conservation perspective, captive-bred ornamental fish could minimize the current exploitation rates of the wild population. On the other hand, this might decrease the incentives for conservation of those wild stocks. It is important to provide the public with useful and relevant knowledge of the issue and costs and benefits for the environment and the species before making a decision to buy captive bred-specimens or wild-collected specimens.