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Live Reef Fish Trade
Introduction | Identification | Impacts | Causes | Actions | More Info

Have you ever chosen a live reef fish from a tank in a restaurant that was then cooked for your next meal? If so, you have supported the live reef food fish trade (LRFFT) also known as the live food fish trade (LFFT). The live reef food fish trade has increased dramatically in the past two decades. With this growth is the intensification of three major problems commonly associated with the capture of live fish. In some parts of the world, cyanide use is prevalent in this fishery and its effects on targeted and non-target species is a concern. Second, targeted species, like groupers, form large spawning groups which fishers take advantage of and effectively capture large numbers of fish. Lastly, as larger, more desirable reef fish are more difficult to find, juveniles are being targeted and grown-out in fish pens until they reach marketable size. The last two problems in particular have the potential to wipe out populations of reef fish, contributing to overfishing of reef ecosystems. Hong Kong is the largest importer of live reef fish for food, importing an estimated 30,000 metric tons each year (Lau and Jones 1999). As targeted species are no longer abundant on local reefs, commercial fishers must move to other reefs leading to depletion of target species in these areas as well (USCRTF 2000). The live reef food fish trade, however, can be sustainable if done properly and provide fishers with more income while catching fewer fish.
Collecting fish from holding cages for the live fish market. Location: Spermonde Islands, Sulawesi, Indonesia Photo by: J. Oliver (from ReefBase: http://www.reefbase.org)
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