Philippines to Collaborate with New England Aquarium on Marine Aquarium Data

New England Aquarium President and CEO Nigella Hillgarth with Undersecretary Asis Perez at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding

New England Aquarium President and CEO Nigella Hillgarth with Undersecretary Asis Perez at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding that could prove a game-changer in the marine aquarium trade

Today Philippine Undersecretary for Fisheries Asis Perez signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the New England Aquarium and the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) outlining a pilot project that will allow New England Aquarium staff to assess marine aquarium trade export data from the Philippines. The project, according to the Memorandum, will help develop the capacity for real-time monitoring of the marine aquarium trade and will leverage the respective party’s strengths. The Memorandum was signed at the New England Aquarium and is in effect until 1 January 2018 and is then renewable for subsequent years.

The pilot project, titled “Developing the Capacity for Real-Time Monitoring of the Aquatic Wildlife Trade from a Key Export Country,” will be funded in part through a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant. The grant will provide the resources for oversight by New England Aquarium staff of data capture of invoices associated with all export shipments of marine aquarium fishes and invertebrates from the Philippines for a period of one year. The grant will also fund the training of BFAR staff to use the data entry system currently being used for a joint New England Aquarium-Roger Williams University marine ornamental database, which is set to publish online this summer. “Ultimately,” the project proposal states, “trained [BFAR] staff will have the…knowledge and training necessary to create digital images of invoices, operate the optical character recognition software, verify the data, and successfully send that data to the marine ornamental database.”

At present, the global marine aquarium trade possesses almost no third-party, independently verified data on which to assess sustainability. What data there are rarely provide species-level information. In the absence of such data, the aquarium trade is unable to defend itself against claims of unsustainable practices, and it is equally ill-prepared to address challenges and implement reform where needed. The publication of the New England Aquarium-Roger Williams University marine ornamental database this coming summer will be an important first step toward shaping the future of a responsible, sustainable and defensible marine aquarium trade, but it will only provide data on U.S. imports. Because the Philippines is the primary exporter of marine aquarium fishes and invertebrates globally, assessing export data from the Philippines will give an even more complete picture of the global trade.

In short, the signing of this Memorandum, combined with the publication of the New England Aquarium-Roger Williams University marine ornamental database this summer, could be a game-changer for the marine aquarium trade.

Advertisements

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 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Philippines to Collaborate with New England Aquarium on Marine Aquarium Data

  1. Steve Lowes says:

    Very encouraging and interesting. I want to hear more. I hope progress and data will be shared. There’s a lot to deal with here from quotas, collection practices survival records and as you’ve said Ret – maybe some difficult conversations to be had. But good to see this.

    • Ret Talbot says:

      Thanks, Steve. This was a piece from March 2015, so we are about six months down the road and still not much has transpired. Based on my discussions with sources close to the collaboration, I remain optimistic, but time will tell. Be on the lookout for a more in-depth analysis on the collaboration and why these data are important, as well as updates on the progress, at http://www.fishchannel.com and CORAL Magazine.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s