Conservation and threats

Stem of a wild fishtail palm from Belize.

The stem of a wild fishtail palm from Belize showing that most of its leaves have been cut. There is concern that unregulated harvesting of fishtail leaves threatens populations of this species.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Chamaedorea are among the world’s most endangered palms, with around three quarters of species threatened.

Threats

  1. The biggest cause of concern for the fishtail palm in Central America is the destruction of its rainforest habitat due to clearance for development and farming. 
  2. A second threat is the large-scale and usually uncontrolled harvesting and subsequent exportation of its leaf for the floricultural industry. This began in the 1950s and demand has increased over the years resulting in over-harvesting and a reduction of some populations of this species.

Regional initiatives

While the industry can be environmentally destructive, it provides a source of employment to many people in Central America.

A number of regional initiatives are seeking to reduce the ecological impact of xatero activity whilst ensuring that local livelihoods are maintained. 

These include the:

  • establishment of plantations to reduce the pressure on wild populations
  • introduction of wise management guidelines
  • use of eco-labelling to harness the power of the consumer to promote the sale of leaves from well-managed sources