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World Wildlife Fund-Philippines Publishes Recommendations for Marine Aquarium Trade

Recommendations are designed to relieve collection pressures on Philippine reefs.

October 22, 2013

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The marine aquarium trade in the Philippines and Indonesia supplies approximately 85 percent of global demand, according to the World Wildlife Fund-Philippines. This demand, combined with 40 years of little to no regulation in these islands nations has over-expolited these reefs, which are rich in biodiversity. A 2004 University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute study says that only 1 percent of the island nation's reefs are in excellent condition, with the remaining 99 percent damaged by such factors as climate change, pollution and unregulated and unsustainable fishing.

Clownfish. Photo by David Fry

Because of this, the WWF has recommended through its Better Choices Program, a series of practical solutions for both marine aquarium keepers and the approximately 4,000 aquarium fish collectors in the Philippines.

"Regulated collection using nets and not poisons, better stocking and shipping techniques plus imposing sensible size, catch and species limits can provide collectors both sustainable livelihoods and a strong incentive to protect instead of exploit our reefs,” said Jose Maria Lorenzo Tan, WWF-Philippines Vice-chair and CEO. "In the South Pacific nations of Fiji, Tonga and the Solomon Islands, local communities are learning to sustainably farm hard and soft corals, giant clams and live rock (compacted corals or reef rock encrusted with marine life) for export to western markets."

The WWF-Philippines has created a list of recommendations in an effort to relieve some of the pressures on the country's reefs. These initial recommendations include:

  1. Avoid purchasing hard to keep fish such as cleaner wrasses, mandarin dragonets, Moorish idols and seahorses. WWF Philippines list the mortality rates of these fishes at 99 percent.
  2. Promote hardy fish, such as clownfish, damsels, certain gobies and wrasses, and surgeonfish. These fishes enjoy far better survival rates than other species, the WWF said.
  3. Use artifical corals and invertebrates if aquacultured corals are not available, consider artifical corals and reef rocks. Avoid invertebrates such as hard corals (which are illegal to harvest in the Philippines), sponges and anemones.
  4. Purchase aquacultured fish and invertebrates
    The Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has approved a program that enables fish farmers to apply for wildlife ranching permits that enables them to collect a certain number of wild fish that will serve as brood stock for aquaculture purposes. The BFAR requires that 30 percent of juvenile captive bred fishes be returned to the reefs.
  5. Increase the price of saltwater fish and invertebrates
    The idea here is that keeping these animals alive can be challenging and higher prices will also mean better income for those catching them with less fish having to be caught. This in turn benefits the health of the reef.
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World Wildlife Fund-Philippines Publishes Recommendations for Marine Aquarium Trade

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Roy    Miami, FL

10/23/2013 7:51:32 AM

These recommendations are great, but unfortunately similar recommendations have been issued at other locations in the past with limited or temporary success. In areas of the world where the common economic denominator is low income it is hard to enforce such recommendations. The price increase at the consumer end takes too long to trickle down into the impoverished collector and may not have the effect desired as catching the same or more fish would mean a much higher income and may actually shift people on lower income producing activities to switch to fish collecting therefore increasing the pressure on the fish stocks, which is opposite to what is desired. One better alternative is to enforce a 30-90 day quarantine period for fish caught, this not an easy task either, but one that would start working from the supply end since the collectors would need to be educated and trained in the right techniques and ways to handle organisms so that the purchaser/wholesaler/quarantine facility would have a high survival rate for the fish to be shipped after the quarantine period. The government/export authority would be in charge of the quarantine enforcement and the wholesaler in charge of educating the collector so as to satisfy the quarantine effectively and economically. This method is fairer as it requires regulation, investment and/or education on all parts of the chain and hence more likely to succeed.

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