AsiaPacific live fish trade under threat

Overfishing and the use of explosives to catch fish threaten the industry.

Amplify’d from

Parrot fish OVERFISHED: Parrot fish (above), along with snapper and grouper, are popular fish for diners in China. (Photo: Lee Nachtigal/Flickr)
An insatiable appetite for reef fish like snapper in Hong Kong and other markets is fuelling over-fishing in the Coral Triangle, a key area for marine biodiversity, experts said March 2.
The trade is encouraging fishermen to use cyanide and explosives that destroy reefs and fish hatcheries essential for the industry's future, they said.


Officials and experts from across the Asia-Pacific region are meeting in Indonesia to discuss the future of the lucrative live fish industry.


The trade brings species like grouper, parrot fish and snapper from the warm seas of Southeast Asia to dinner tables in markets like Hong Kong and mainland China.


"Over-fishing and destructive fishing practices such as the use of cyanide and explosives are being driven by an increasing demand for seafood across the Asian-Pacific," said Geoffrey Muldoon, of environmental group WWF.


He said the problem was being "exacerbated by the lack of effective systems to sustainably manage this burgeoning industry."


Up to 70 percent of reef fish in some places in the region are being taken from the ocean in their infancy before they have had a chance to reproduce, he said.


"If left unchecked, the sustainability of the whole industry hangs in the balance, but more importantly marine biodiversity at large ... will be threatened," Muldoon said.


Hong Kong is the major importer of live reef fish, buying a total of $159.6 million worth in 2008, according to Indonesian officials.


Indonesia is the second largest supplier after the Philippines, and exported 123,000 tons worth $85.5 million last year, WWF said in a statement. In terms of tonnage that was more than 57 percent up on 2009, it said.


The Coral Triangle stretches across six nations between the Indian and Pacific oceans — Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.


It contains 37 percent of the world's reef fish species.


"The sustainable trade in live reef fish is one of the important components in ensuring food security in the future," Indonesian fishery ministry secretary-general Gellwynn Jusuf said.


"We need to discuss collaborative action involving producer and consumer countries to manage the trade in live reef fish in a sustainable way."


The three-day workshop in Bali is being co-hosted by the Indonesian government and WWF and has financial backing from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

blog comments powered by Disqus