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View site #952 > ScoreCard for survey #1 > Issue

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

What can be done to solve this problem?

  • Understand the situation. Examine past and current attempts to solve this issue and whether these actions have been effective. You can get a sense of whether the live reef food fish trade is regulated by simply talking to people in the community and government officials.

  • Link the live reef food fish trade with other management actions. Review the management questions in the Reef Check survey to identify whether there are management regulations in place and if they are being enforced. (Examples of where management plans have been developed specifically for the trade in the Pacific include Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands – both in consultation with The Secretariat of the Pacific Community and/or The Nature Conservancy). The goal is to bring all parts of society and government together to plan how coastal resources will be used or protected. To understand how actions by citizens and the government can be part of a joint effort to manage coral reefs, review the fact sheet on ‘Integrated Coastal Management’. In addition, review the fact sheet on ‘Marine Protected Areas.’ Marine protected areas are a tool that can be used as a part of integrated coastal management.

  • How can we solve this problem?

    The income that can be generated by local fishers is a strong economic incentive to continue to participate in the live reef food fish trade. However, the economic or financial benefits often do not materialize for the fisher, even in the short term, and the long-term costs far outweigh any small short-term benefits. Therefore, participation in the live reef food fish trade can only continue sustainably as long as fish populations are managed in such a way to ensure that they have a chance to reproduce. Though the short-term economic benefits from the live reef food fish trade may be difficult to pass up, in the long-term the health of the reef should be maintained in order to ensure that local communities can continue to harvest the reef into the future.

    By encouraging fishers to use other methods of capture like hook and line or nets rather than cyanide, the unintended effects on corals and other animals may be reduced. In addition, better management of reef resources and enforcement of regulations is key to reducing the possibility of overfishing local reefs to the point where they can no longer sustain the food needs and livelihoods of local communities.

    Currently, there is no program to certify live reef food fish as having been sustainably harvested. However, organizations such as the Marine Aquarium Council (www.aquariumcouncil.org) are currently working on live reef food fish trade standards and best practice documents. Therefore it is up to consumers of live reef fish to ask store and restaurant owners whether the fish they are selling is cyanide-free. Doing so will bring greater attention to this issue.

    What can a concerned citizen do to help?

    There are several actions that any individual can do to help decrease live food fish trade impacts on coral reefs. These include:
  • If you plan on consuming live fish at a restaurant, ask if they are cyanide-free. Although there is no certification system yet available for live reef food fish or an accurate method to detect cyanide, let the industry know that you are aware of the issue and want a sustainable product.

  • Choose not to eat live reef fish, especially Napoleon wrasse and grouper, and tell your local restaurant owner why.

  • Raise public awareness concerning the harmful effects of cyanide fishing on coral reefs. This can be done by creating posters, brochures, by conducting workshops in the community and by word-of-mouth. The International Marinelife Alliance’s Destructive Fishing Reform Program (DFRP) in the Philippines is an example of a public awareness campaign focused on to reducing the extent and impact of cyanide fishing. See http://www.marine.org/content/coral_reef_programs/reef_dfrp.html for more information.

  • Encourage local fishers to use less harmful fishing methods such as hook-and-line and nets. See the International Marinelife Alliance’s DFRP in the Philippines at http://www.marine.org/content/coral_reef_programs/reef_dfrp.html for more information.

  • What can managers and decision-makers do to help?

    In addition to the above management recommendations for a concerned citizen, resource managers and decision-makers may have additional means available to them to decrease the impacts that the live food fish trade has on coral reefs. These include:
  • Train fishers in the use of nondestructive fishing methods like hook-and-line and nets. See the International Marinelife Alliance’s Destructive Fishing Reform Program (http://www.marine.org/content/coral_reef_programs/reef_dfrp.html) for an example of how this can be done

  • Subsidize the purchase of new alternative fishing gear.

  • Establish management plans to regulate the catch and sale of live reef fish. Rare species of reef fish and fish populations that have declined dramatically should be protected and the catch and sale of them should be illegal. See Smith (1997) for an example of management suggestions for a sustainable live fish trade.

  • Establish a marine protected area or reserve to set aside key spawning areas that can help to replenish other areas of the reef that have been heavily impacted. See Marine and Coastal Protected Areas: A Guide for Planners and Managers by R.V. Salm et al. (2000) for more information on how to establish marine protected areas.

  • Increase enforcement of regulations by improving the funding available for enforcement or by establishing voluntary citizen monitoring programs to encourage reporting of observed illegal activity. See Coastal Law Enforcement by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippines (2001) at: http://www.oneocean.org/download/20011005/Book8.pdf

  • Educate local fishers on how cyanide can harm coral ecosystems. This can be done by creating posters, brochures, conducting workshops, and by word-of-mouth. See the International Marinelife Alliance’s Destructive Fishing Reform Practices at http://www.marine.org/content/coral_reef_programs/reef_dfrp.html for more information on how this is being done.

  • Encourage local businesses that purchase live reef fish to avoid purchasing fish caught using destructive and unsustainable methods. If these businesses stop purchasing fish that have been caught using cyanide, fishers will be encouraged to use other fishing methods.

  • Prohibit and increase the penalty for selling or the possession of live fish that have been caught using cyanide and selling illegal species.

  • Consider establishing live fish mariculture facilities to alleviate fishing pressure on wild reef species. See ACIAR’s Grouper Project at: http://www.enaca.org/ACIAR/ for an example of an ongoing project.
  • Floating fish pens. Location: Near Nha Trang, Vietnam Photo by: J. Oliver (from ReefBase: http://www.reefbase.org)
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