Marine Aquarium Fisheries: A Force for Good in Saving Coral Reefs?

When fisheries pressure has a direct connection to a “luxury” pursuit, as is most often the case when it comes to supplying coral reef animals for shell collectors, jewelry and curio buyers, and marine aquarists, many people conclude there is little justification to harvest wild animals from reefs. Some environmental groups are, in fact, calling for bans on the harvest of reef fishes and invertebrates—bans that could be enforced by import restrictions imposed by importing countries, especially in North America and Europe. On the other end of the spectrum, some in the aquarium trade are saying that all aquarium animals should be captive bred.

Now, a new paper challenges that conclusion by suggesting not only are sustainable marine aquarium fisheries justifiable, they may in fact be able to play a leading role in coral reef conservation. Published in the April issue of the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, the article is entitled, Is sustainable exploitation of coral reefs possible? A view from the standpoint of the marine aquarium trade.

The paper, authored by three scientists affiliated with the New England Aquarium, Drs. Andrew L. Rhyne, Michael F. Tlusty and Les Kaufman, is the latest in a series of scientific papers that are undoubtedly good news for those involved in the trade and keeping of coral reef animals. It argues strongly that the future of coral reefs are dependent on the “reef-side communities” that both derive their livelihoods from marine harvests and are involved daily in the protection of their local reefs.

With proper reforms and development, the authors say, the marine aquarium trade (MAT) can be a key player in defending reefs and reef resources from various serious onslaughts (destructive fishing practices, over-harvesting, pollution, shoreline deforestation, and other impacts).

“Rather than destroying the reef,” the authors say, “the marine aquarium trade could play a role in saving it, a role totally out of proportion to its size, and even out of proportion to its potential to do harm.”

Read the full article here.

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About Ret Talbot

Ret Talbot is a freelance writer who covers fisheries at the intersection of science and sustainability. His work has appeared in publications such as National Geographic, Mongabay, Discover Magazine, Ocean Geographic and Coral Magazine. He lives on the coast of Maine with his wife, scientific illustrator Karen Talbot.
This entry was posted in Indo-Pacific, Ornamental Fisheries. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Marine Aquarium Fisheries: A Force for Good in Saving Coral Reefs?

  1. Pingback: To Marine Aquarists on World Wildlife Day | The Good Catch

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