View site #952 > ScoreCard for survey #1 > Issue
Introduction | Identification | Impacts | Causes | Actions | More Info
|What are the first steps to addressing 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 marine ornamental trade is regulated by simply talking to people in the community and government officials.
Link the marine ornamental 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. 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 generated from collecting aquarium species is a major incentive to continue to harvest reef species even if diving-related injuries and reef degradation may result. Often, species with the highest retail value are those that are the rarest and hardest to find in the wild. The economic incentives to target these species is high and contributes to the demise of these rare, endemic species. The ease and low-cost of obtaining poisons such as sodium cyanide for fish collection is an additional incentive to continue this practice. Lastly, management and regulation of local fisheries is limited or non-existent in many areas. This often leads to the overfishing of particular species with little consideration of the long-term viability of the resource.
By educating local fishers on the biology of reef species, on how to use fishing methods that do not needlessly harm coral reefs, and safe diving practices, collection of aquarium species can be a sustainable source of income for coastal communities while maintaining the health of local reefs. In addition, by developing and/or supporting certification programs such as the Marine Aquarium Council (MAC) to ensure that fish, invertebrates, and live corals have been collected using safe harvesting methods, reef species can be recognized in the marketplace as being a more environmentally-friendly product. As consumer awareness grows concerning destructive practices associated with the marine ornamental trade, the demand for certified aquarium species will only increase. If however local reef ecosystems have been overharvested and stressed to a point where aquarium collection is no longer viable, alternative employment opportunities must be made available to aquarium fish collectors. These opportunities may include developing seaweed farms, ecotourism industries, or community-managed artificial propagation of hard corals and marine fish for the marine ornamental trade (mariculture). Working with the community on a long-term reef restoration and management program while allowing limited harvesting of reef species can also help overexploited reef areas.
What can a concerned citizen do to help?
There are several actions that any individual can do to help decrease impacts associated with the marine ornamental trade. These include:
Report observations of cyanide use and other methods of destructive fishing to local law enforcement and government officials.
Refrain from buying reef species that have been harvested in an unsustainable manner and encourage other consumers to do the same. For a list of companies that are certified with the Marine Aquarium Council see http://www.aquariumcouncil.org/. The MAC brochure, “Information for marine aquarium hobbyists” is also on-line at: http://macweb.inets.com/docs/1/pdf/Hobbyist_Booklet.pdf
Promote or support eco-certification of collected reef species to give consumers a choice in the marketplace between animals that were collected using destructive methods and those that were not. See the Marine Aquarium Council (http://www.aquariumcouncil.org/) for information regarding how this can and is being done.
Consider buying synthetic corals or farm-reared corals from a facility certified as having raised the coral in an environmentally sustainable manner. See the “Oceans, reefs and aquariums” website at: http://www.orafarm.com/hobbists.html for a phone number to locate retailers that sell farm-raised fish and invertebrates.
Avoid purchasing fish and coral species that are difficult to maintain in captivity.
Raise consumer awareness about the role that an educated and well-informed consumer choice can play in encouraging sustainable harvesting of aquarium species and encourage hobbyists to demand certified products. Demand can be driven by educated and well-informed consumers in importing countries through consumer choice for eco-certified products. See Appendix D: “Draft text for outreach materials for marine hobbyists” available on-line at: http://coralreef.gov/international/append.pdf for an example of a possible format for educational materials.
Educate local fishers and communities on the dangers associated with improper use of diving equipment and promote safe diving techniques for fish collectors.
Educate local fishers on safe handling and transport techniques to decrease the number of animals that die after being harvested.
Promote alternative or supplemental employment opportunities for communities where local reefs have been degraded. Mariculture of hard corals for the marine ornamental trade is just one example (see The Global Trade in Coral by E. Green and F. Shirley).
Encourage exporters to contribute their data to the Global Marine Aquarium Database to ensure that comprehensive information on the trade is available. See http://www.unep-wcmc.org/marine/GMAD/ for more information.
Collaborate with the marine aquarium industry to eliminate destructive collection practices and to reduce mortality during handling and transport.
Visit the Marine Aquarium Council (MAC) website at: http://www.aquariumcouncil.org/ for information on its certification program. Purchasing MAC certified marine organisms encourages fishing communities to use more sustainable and environmentally-sensitive fishing techniques.
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 the marine ornamental trade has on coral reefs. These include:
Establish harvest levels for reef species that are harvested by collectors.
Prohibit poison fishing and promote sustainable collecting techniques like the use of nets and “tickler” sticks. See the “Destructive fishing reform program“ at http://www.marine.org/content/coral_reef_programs/reef_dfrp_skills.htm
Prohibit the collection and trade of rare or endemic species and species that do not survive in aquaria. Also prohibit the collection of reef species that have low population densities.
Increase enforcement of existing regulations by increasing funding, enforcement officers, and appropriate fines. See Philippine Coastal Management Guidebook Series, No. 8, Coastal Law Enforcement by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, Philippines, available at: http://oneocean.org/download/20011005/Book8.pdf
Establish import regulations based on eco-certification of aquarium species. See the Marine Aquarium Council website (http://www.aquariumcouncil.org/) for an example of how reef species can be certified as harvested in a manner that does not damage reefs.
Require individual importers to show documentation that products came from areas that are establishing or have established reef management plans.
Develop management and conservation plans that involve resource users.
Develop monitoring plans for the aquarium trade as well as industry standards and registration and licensing within all sectors of the industry.
Introduce fishery logbooks to record species and numbers of individuals caught, collecting areas, and time spent collecting for collectors and export forms for dealers.
Establish marine zones and marine protected areas to separate different users in an effort to reduce potential conflicts between aquarium collectors and other users, especially the tourism sector. See http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/ for how marine zoning was employed in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Establish fish replenishment areas (FRAs) where collecting is prohibited. These areas will help seed other areas of the reef and increase populations of targeted reef species. See “In Hawaii, the age of aquariums raises concern.” Available at : http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A49328-2002Jun2?language=printer
Consider the development of mariculture for local species in order to take pressure off wild stocks. Use of artificial reefs or coral and fish aggregating devices (CFADs) to provide additional habitat for settlement and growth of coral reef species should also be considered. CFADs is a term developed by the Marine Aquarium Council that is based on the term fish aggregating devices (FAD) but is designed to be a more permanent structure than a traditional FAD. It involves the establishment and use of a coral-based attractant structure.