Coastal Fisheries Programme

Number 13 - January 2005

Editor and Group Coordinator: Tom Graham, PO Box 235, Honolulu, HI 96809 USA. Phone/fax: +1 (808) 625 8755

Production: Information Section, Marine Resources Division, SPC, PO BOX D5, 98848 Noumea Cedex, New Caledonia Fax (687) 263818)

Prepared with financial assistance from Australia, France and New Zealand.

From the Editor

In the last year there has been considerable media attention given to the impact that Disney’s animated movie, Finding Nemo, has had (or might have) on the marine aquarium trade and coral reefs. The movie is about the adventures of a young clownfish, Nemo, taken from his home on the Great Barrier Reef by a diver, and installed in a fish tank in a dentist’s office in Sydney.

There have been reports of kids responding to the movie by flushing their aquarium fish down toilets in order to free them, reports of increased demand for aquarium fish, particularly clownfish, and stories about such increased demand leading to adverse impacts on coral reefs (see article in this issue by Being Yeeting and Kalo Pakoa about Vanuatu’s marine aquarium trade and the effects of a particular news item on its management).

To give an indication of the influence Finding Nemo may have had on the marine aquarium trade and coral reefs, the name Nemo appears in the titles of two presentations made at the Marine Ornamentals 2004 conference, held in Honolulu in March (see the News and Events section for more on the conference), and in seemingly countless news items (other than movie reviews), with titles such as Flushing Nemo, Losing Nemo, Freeing Nemo, Stunning Nemo, Saving Nemo, Keeping Nemo and Nemo for Real.

The profusion of these news items probably reflects the public outreach efforts of organizations such as the Marine Aquarium Council and the United Nations Environment Programme as much as it reflects the magnitude of the movie’s impact (the young actor Alexander Gould, the voice of Nemo, has partnered with MAC in its publicity efforts, and some stories were spawned by UNEP’s efforts to publicize the release of its 2003 report, From ocean to aquarium: The global trade in marine ornamentals, available at

Whatever their source, these stories concern the central questions that resource managers and scientists have to grapple with whenit comes to fisheries for marine aquarium fish (and live reef food fish): Does the considerable global demand for these products offer viable economic opportunities to communities and nations such as those in the Pacific Islands? Are fisheries for these products currently managed so as to take best advantage of those opportunities while conserving the resource? If not, is it possible to do so?

After seeing all these news items about Finding Nemo’s impacts on the marine aquarium trade and coral reefs, I decided I had better see the movie for myself. First, I can report that it is a terrific movie. I can also say that it gives a dazzling and appealing view of coral reefs (although sometimes a scary one if you are a kid), and I can see how the movie could make people want to put a little bit of that dazzle into a tank in their home.

Although the movie does offer a moral lesson or two, the lessons are not really about whether it is good or bad to hold fish in a tank in your home. (OK, I admit there are lines like this one from Gill, a Moorish idol and patriarch of the residents in the dentist’s fish tank, to Nemo: “Fish aren’t meant to be in a box, kid; it does things to ya.”) Still, the movie has clearly spurred many people to think a little harder about that fundamental question. I don’t dare get any deeper into that question here — I’ll let the present and future contributors to this bulletin answer it, along with the countless corollary questions in the realms of economics, biology, ethics and other disciplines.

Now, moving on from the cartoon world to the real world…

Dead fish are a major preoccupation of people involved in live fish fisheries (or they ought to be), as this issue demonstrates, particularly with respect to the marine aquarium trade. Christiane Schmidt and Andreas Kunzmann share their findings about post-harvest mortality rates and the causes of mortality from their intensive look at an aquarium fish export operation in Indonesia. Peter Rubec and Ferdinand Cruz provide an historical and industry-wide review of the same topic and outline their plans to conduct research aimed at reducing the mortality of marine aquarium fish during collection and transport.

As you read these articles and consider the double-digit per cent mortality rates that appear to be typical in the marine aquarium trade, it is useful to keep in mind the acceptable mortality limits in the standards established by the Marine Aquarium Council (MAC). These limits are basically 1% dead on arrival and 1% dead after arrival per species and per shipment for each link in the chain of custody. See the MAC web site ( for more details, including the “MAC Certification Mortality Allowance Information Sheet”, which describes certain mortality allowances being made during the “development phase” of the standards.

This bulletin issue is relatively light on the subject of live reef food fish, but the article by Geoffrey Muldoon, Liz Peterson and Brian Johnston reviews recent economic events in the Asia-Pacific live reef food fish trade, including the impacts of last year’s SARS outbreak. The article summarizes their plan to investigate the economic and market aspects of the trade.

This bulletin issue includes a few aquaculture-related articles. One is a manifesto by Suresh Job on the bright future of community-based aquaculture of marine aquarium fish. We also have progress reports from the field on the collection and grow-out of pre-settlement reef fish and crustaceans (by Cathy Hair) and on hatchery efforts for popular live reef food fish species (Bejo Slamet and Jhon H. Hutapea on humphead wrasse and Ketut Suwirya on leopard coralgrouper).

Tom Graham


Post-harvest mortality in the marine aquarium trade: A case study of an Indonesian export facility
Schmidt C., Kunzmann A. (pdf: 118 KB)
Monitoring the chain of custody to reduce delayed mortality of net-caught fish in the aquarium trade
Rubec P.J., Cruz F.P. (pdf: 126 KB)
Integrating marine conservation and sustainable development: Community-based aquaculture of marine aquarium fish
Job S. (pdf: 91 KB)
The management challenges of Vanuatu's developing marine aquarium fish trade
Yeeting B., Pakoa K. (pdf: 59 KB)
Pre-settlement fish capture and culture workshop, Solomon Islands
Hair C. (pdf: 137 KB)
Seahorses take to the world stage
Koldewey H. (pdf: 141 KB)
Economic and market analysis of the live reef food fish trade in the Asia-Pacific region
Muldoon G., Peterson L., Johnston B. (pdf: 122 KB)
Humphead wrasse listed on CITES
Sadovy Y. (pdf: 105 KB)
First successful hatchery production of Napoleon wrasse at Gondol Research Institute for Mariculture, Bali
Slamet B., Hutapea J.H. (pdf: 114 KB)
Spawning and larval rearing of coral trout at Gondol
Suwirya K. (pdf: 142 KB)
Helping marine protected area managers cope with coral bleaching: Reef resilience toolkit
Mcleod E. (pdf: 149 KB)


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Live Reef Fish #13 (pdf: )


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