Saturday, November 9, 2013

Say Goodbye To That Bagre!

Bagre in Paloquemao market in Bogotá.
Bagre rayado, a staple of Colombian fish markets and restaurants, may soon be gone.

This fishseller in Paloquemao was aware of the bagre's
According to the National University, bagre - as well as the pez jetón - are disappearing because of overfishing in the Rio Magdalena, as well as pollution and human alteration of its habitat.

Saving the bagre, also known as the pez gato or catfish, would be simple in principle, according to the researchers. Since a female can lay 800 eggs at a time, stopping fishing for just couple of years could allow the bagre to recover. But the small fishermen who catch bagre are undoubtedly poor people who can't afford to give up their livelihood for years. But that attitude could doom the bagre fishery forever.

The bagre didn't become a Colombian staple becuse of its
good looks.
Another possibility, it seems to me, would be to farm the bagre in captivity - if the fish will cooperate with that.

Bagre are also suffering other human impacts, including lead poisoning from mining and oil extraction, and pesticides from agriculture. That's yet another reason to think twice before eating bagre.
Bagre, top, and pez jetón below.
(Image from the National University.)

Colombia has 1,435 known species of freshwater fish, but 81 of them are in danger of extinction. Undoubtedly, there are many more species to be found: In fact, university researchers recently discovered three new fish species in Antioquia. Most likely, humans are driving other species extinct even before scientists can identify them.

A Bogotá fish restaurant.
And fish are far from Colombia's only endangered animals. According to the recent book Grandes Felinos de Colombia, Colombia's jaguars, pumas and tigrillos are being devastated by habitat loss, illegal hunting and mercury poisoning. Conservationists dream of a multinational protected area to enable jaguar populations in Central America to breed with those in Colombia.

The jaguar, now endangered, has played an important cultural role here since pre-Columbian times. Here, a replica of a San Agustin sculpture portraying a figure with human and animal characteristics.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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