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

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

The Reef Check Survey covers several questions that may help identify whether poison fishing is a problem at your site. These questions include: low abundance of barramundi cod, grouper (>30cm), humphead (or Napoleon) wrasse, parrotfish (>20cm), and lobster; and the perceived level of fishing for the live reef fish trade.

The questions below will help to ensure that you have accurately identified poison fishing as an issue affecting local reefs.

  • Are there areas of dead and bleached corals? Use of cyanide or other poisons to stun targeted fish affects the surrounding corals and reef organisms in the area. Corals can be bleached and may die as a result. Therefore, areas where cyanide use has been widespread may be characterized by patches of dead and bleached corals. However, areas of bleached corals can have other causes as well such as elevated sea surface temperatures.

  • Is there broken coral or coral rubble? In order to retrieve targeted reef species, fishers often break corals to reach desired animals stressed with cyanide. Patches of coral rubble near bleached corals may be an indication of poison fishing occurring at your site.

  • Are there low levels of Reef Check indicator fish like barramundi cod and humphead wrasse? Low levels of Reef Check indicator fish and invertebrates like lobsters may be an indication of poison fishing, but may also point to the more general problem of overfishing.

  • Did you observe fishers and collectors using squirt bottles to stun fish? Observations of fishers using squirt bottles to stun desired species is a clear indication that poison fishing is occurring in your area.

  • Are there local businesses that support the live reef food fish trade and/or the marine ornamental trade? The profitable live reef food fish trade and the marine ornamental trade are two of the biggest drivers for local fishers to use cyanide. The largest markets for these trades are in Hong Kong for live reef food fish and the United States for aquarium fish. Therefore the presence of local export businesses that handle live fish can be an indication that cyanide use may be problem in your area.
  • Juvenile lobsters taken by divers from a blasted reef (note squirt bottle used for cyanide). Location: Postiljon Island, Indonesia Photo by: Mark V. Erdmann (from ReefBase: http://www.reefbase.org)
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