NANFA-- FW: Aquarium Trade Snaps Up Fish By the Millions (most From SE

Denkhaus, Robert (
Wed, 15 Oct 2003 08:56:02 -0500

Rob Denkhaus
Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge

Aquarium Trade Snaps Up Fish By the Millions

LONDON, UK, October 7, 2003 (ENS) - Over 20 million tropical fish are being
harvested annually to supply a booming marine aquarium trade in Europe, the
United States, and Japan, worth between $200 to $330 million each year,
according to the most comprehensive global survey ever undertaken.

The report, released September 30 by the United Nations Environment
Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), found that 1,471
species are taken for the trade.

"From Ocean to Aquarium: The Global Trade in Marine Ornamentals" that the
value of aquarium creatures in trade is The report comes in advance of the UK
launch of the Disney blockbuster, "Finding Nemo," already popular in the
United States.

The film tells the story of a clown anemonefish, which along with the
beautiful blue-green damselfish, tops the list as the most traded tropical

In the UNEP-WCMC report, Southeast Asia is shown to be the main source of the
aquarium trade, but ornamental marine species are increasingly being taken
from island nations in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

"For the first time we have an accurate estimate of the number of fish, corals
and other animals being taken from coral reefs and brought to public aquariums
and fish tanks in homes across Europe and the USA," said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's
executive director.

A further nine to 10 million animals, including molluscs, shrimps and anemones
and involving some 500 species, are being traded to supply tanks in homes,
public aquaria and dentists' surgeries. Up to 12 million stony corals are
being harvested, transported and sold annually, the report states.

"Collecting tropical fish brings pleasure to millions. It also fuels an
important, and mostly legitimate, industry," said Toepfer. "The global trade
in marine species on the one hand poses a significant risk to valuable
ecosystems like coral reefs, but on the other has great potential as a source
of desperately needed income for local fishing communities."

Mark Collins, UNEP-WCMC director said, "If managed properly, the aquarium
industry could support long term conservation and sustainable use of coral
reefs in regions where other options for generating revenue are limited. Some
collection techniques have minimal impact on coral and the industry as a whole
is of relatively low volume yet of very high value."

But often the collection of fish for the aquarium trade is harmful to other
fish and corals.

"A minority of fishermen, in countries such as Indonesia, use sodium cyanide
to capture fish," says Colette Wabnitz, one of the report's authors. "An
almost lethal dose of the poison is squirted into the coral reef where fish
shelter. It stuns the fish to allow capture and export, but can also kill
coral and other species. The fish may survive the export process but usually
die of liver failure soon after being purchased."

Coral reefs are facing an increasing number of threats from pollution and
sedimentation to coral bleaching, overfishing and tourism. The reefs of
Southeast Asia are particularly at risk and it is therefore important that
aquarium species' collection does not further compound these problems, the
report warns.

"This valuable new data," Toepfer said, "should enable more informed and
effective decision making at the policy, industry and consumer level."

Data for the new report has largely come from the Global Marine Aquarium
Database, a joint collaborative effort between UNEP-WCMC, the Marine Aquarium
Council (MAC) and members of various aquarium trade associations.

"Fish certified by the Marine Aquarium Council are healthier and have better
survival chances because they are collected, handled and transported according
to internationally approved best practice standards," says Ed Green another
author of the report.

"We encourage responsible traders to sign up to the MAC certification scheme
and for the public to only buy from reputable dealers. Only by such means can
we ensure a trade, from reef to retail, that is sustainable and beneficial for

* *

Allen Salzberg
HerpDigest: The Free Weekly Electronic
Newsletter on the Latest News on
Reptile and Amphibian Science
and Conservation. Go to to subscribe.

Allen Salzberg
HerpDigest: The Free Weekly Electronic
Newsletter on the Latest News on
Reptile and Amphibian Science
and Conservation. Go to to subscribe.
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