Between one-and-a-half and two million
people worldwide are estimated to keep marine aquaria. The trade, which
supplies this hobby with live marine animals, is worth an estimated
US$200–330 million annually, and operates throughout the tropics.
Ornamental marine species (corals, other invertebrates and fish) are
collected and transported mainly from Southeast Asia, but also increasingly
from several island nations in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, to the
main destination markets: the United States, the European Union (EU)
and, to a lesser extent, Japan (Wabnitz and others 2003).
Some 1 471 fish species and 140 coral species are traded worldwide.
With nearly all tropical marine aquarium fish and invertebrates in trade
taken directly from coral reefs and adjacent habitats, the aquarium
industry has attracted controversy, particularly regarding its sustainability.
A maximum of 10 per cent of marine ornamental fish are captive-bred
and probably less than one per cent of the total trade in hard corals
is derived from cultured origins. Trade in this industry has been on
the increase. In 1997, for example, 1 200 tonnes of coral were traded
internationally, a tenfold increase on the amount of live coral traded
in the late 1980s (Wabnitz and others 2003).
8: Gaining an overview: the Global Marine Aquarium Database
the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC),
the Marine Aquarium Council and members of various aquarium
trade associations began, in collaboration, to address the
need for better information and created the Global Marine
Aquarium Database (GMAD). In August 2003, the dataset contained
102 928 trade records (7.7 million imported and 9.4 million
exported animals) covering a total of 2 393 species of fish,
corals and invertebrates and spanning the years 1988–2003.
An analysis of the database provided the first global picture
of trade in marine ornamental species.
This innovative partnership with traders has led to the collection
of a unique data set and an analysis that will assist national
ministries and commercial organizations to develop a sustainable
approach to the trade.
The GMAD can be accessed through the ‘Species’
page at http://www.unep wcmc.org/
Wabnitz and others 2003
Opponents to the trade emphasize that there are significant challenges
to achieving sustainability:
techniques sometimes used to collect reef specimens. Sodium cyanide,
for example, is a non-selective technique used to capture fish. This
adversely impacts the overall health of fish and coral and non-target
of target organisms;
The high levels
of mortality associated with insensitive shipping and poor husbandry
practices along the supply chain; and
of information on the extent of the marine ornamental trade (Box 8).