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Poison Fishing
Introduction | Identification | Impacts | Causes | Actions | More Info

Poison has been used for centuries as a means of capturing fish. One of these poisons, cyanide, was introduced in 1986 (McAllister et al. 1999) and its use has intensified due to the high market demand for live reef fish. Live fish are captured for both consumption and the marine ornamental trade for aquariums and hobbyists. Typically, larger reef fish such as groupers and Napoleon wrasse and even spiny lobsters, are caught for the live reef food fish trade, while smaller, more colorful fish are targeted for the marine ornamental trade. Fishers typically dispense the poison using a squirt bottle and the cyanide cloud drugs the targeted fish, making them easy to harvest.

Though the cyanide is not meant to kill the targeted fish, it can harm or even kill non-target organisms including corals, other invertebrates, and non-target fish. The damage caused by cyanide for the much smaller-sized ornamental fishes is thought to be much higher than that from the cyanide used to capture food fish due to the greater number of targeted fish per unit reef area (Mous et al. 2000). Though cyanide use is illegal in many countries including the Philippines and Indonesia, its use continues due to the lack of adequate enforcement and the income that fishers can generate from supplying both trades.
Cyanide fishing. Location: Sulawesi, Hoga Island, Indonesia Photo by: H. Newman (from ReefBase: http://www.reefbase.org)
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