Posted by: reefrescue | July 1, 2010

Aquarium trade decimating coral reefs

Scientists call on U.S. to protect reef species

By Eric Sorensen, WSU science writer

VANCOUVER – International law has failed to protect coral reefs and tropical fish from being decimated by a growing collector’s market, but U.S. reforms can lead the way towards making the trade more responsible, ecologically sustainable and humane.

Using data from the United Nation’s conservation monitoring program, the authors say trade in coral and coral reef species is substantial and growing, removing 30 million fish and 1.5 million live stony corals a year. The aquarium industry alone targets some 1,500 species of reef fishes. Many die in transit, leading collectors to gather even more animals to compensate for their losses.
 The result is some species have gone “virtually extinct,” said Tissot. The Banggai cardinalfish, which is unique to a remote Indonesian archipelago, has had its numbers reduced and even eliminated through much of its range after it became a popular aquarium fish in the late 1990s.
 
That’s the view of 18 experts, including Washington State University marine ecologist Brian Tissot, writing in the journal Marine Policy.
With U.S. buyers accounting for more than half the trade in live coral, reef fish and invertebrates, the authors recommend leveraging U.S. market power to reduce the trade’s environmental effects. They suggest laws to protect a wider variety of species, better enforcement that includes tracking a product’s chain of custody, and reforms in source countries. They also recommend changes in marketing to promote sales of species certified as being humane and sustainable.
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