The international conservation organization WWF, the wildlife trade-monitoring network TRAFFIC, and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) back the program, Dowd said.
Only fishers who adhere to eco-friendly standards and handle the fish properly would receive certification, Dowd said.
The fish could be sold in pet stores with the slogan "buy a fish and save a tree," meaning an Amazon rain forest tree, Dowd said.
Sales of eco-friendly saltwater fish started last year and are slow, said Marshall Meyers, executive vice president of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, a pet-trade association based in Washington, D.C.
"The jury is still out. The true hobbyists understand it, but probably the general public hasn't caught on," Meyers said.
The pet industry supports eco-friendly certification of fish and believes they can be sold side-by-side with farm-raised fish, Meyers said.
Nearly all pet cardinal tetras come from Brazil—about 40 million a year, Myers said.
In Rio Negro the current income from fishing is enough to keep logging, mining, and city encroachment from getting a foothold in the region, Dowd said.
That's why the forest is currently protected.
Michael Rambarran is a fish wholesaler at Ornamental Fish Distributors in Miami.
He wants to continue to sell wild Brazilian cardinal tetras. For one thing, the color is more natural than that of tank-raised fish, he said.
"Our clientele wants the wild-caught fish," he said.
New England Aquarium's Dowd is also hopeful that the eco-friendly fish will catch on.
"These are live fish," he said. "People have an emotional connection to them."
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