Coastal Fisheries Programme

Number 9 - December 2001

Editor and Group Coordinator: Bob Johannes

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

The SPC Traditional Marine Resource Management and Knowledge Bulletin, a companion publication to this one, demonstrates that fishers possess extensive knowledge about the waters in which they fish and the species they catch – knowledge that can be invaluable to researchers and government resource managers. Most of the effort to record and use such knowledge has focused on the Pacific Islands, Africa, and South America. Very little such research has been done in Asia; yet there are certain important types of indigenous expertise on fish to be found there that probably dwarf that which can be found anywhere else in the world.

One source of knowledge are the fishers who collect grouper fry from the wild for mariculture. In the past 20 years there has been an outpouring of scientific publications on settlement of post-larval coral reef fishes. Yet there remains a great deal that researchers in this field could learn from Asian fry collectors. This is made clear by the work of Sadovy (2001) and Johannes and Lam (1999), although these authors have only scratched the surface.

Even more could be learned from marine aquarium fish collectors; the bulk of the world’s wild-caught tropical marine aquarium fish, in terms of both numbers and species, come from Southeast Asia.

In addition, there are thousands of small-scale marine fish farmers in Asia from whom much practical knowledge about fish husbandry could be learned. These people are professionals too, and in many ways they understand their particular situations much better than we do. Since many of them cannot afford the kinds of commercial medicines used by big operators, some will undoubtedly have developed, through trial and error, cheap local medicines and other methods for the health care of their fish. If these medicines were scientifically evaluated, some of them would undoubtedly prove to be effective. (The best place to look for them will be among old timers who raise types of fish that have been farmed for at least a generation.)

Other local medicines and other therapeutic aquaculture treatments will undoubtedly not withstand scientific scrutiny, but this is beside the point. A lot of what first passed for scientific knowledge has not withstood scientific scrutiny either. And although some human medicines used by indigenous people have been shown to be ineffective, many medicinal compounds in use today, worth billions of dollars to the pharmaceutical industry, are derived from materials first used by indigenous peoples. We, likewise, ought to find out which indigenous mariculture medicines work.

I know of no research in this area, so it may seem presumptuous of me to be making these claims; but a 1989 annotated bibliography of ethnoveterinary medicine – the terrestrial counterpart of what might be called ethnoaquaculture medicine – runs to 26l entries. The papers and reports it cites demonstrate repeatedly that one does not have to be formally well-educated, or even literate, to be clever, and to come up with clever solutions to problems with pests, ectoparasites, diseases, wounds and other problems with one’s animals. As the authors of this bibliography say, "many ethnoveterinary techniques are as effective as, and much cheaper than, their Western-world equivalents." And, as Chan says in this issue,"Something must be done to assist the sustainable development of the mariculture industry in the region through better disease control measures."

Since 1989 the study of ethnoveterinary medicine has taken off, especially in India, and such a bibliography today would undoubtedly be much larger. Given this example, and the growing interest in marine aquaculture research in Asia (as demonstrated, for example, in the pages of Aquaculture Asia and the Grouper Electronic Newsletter), is it not time to begin the study of ethnoaquaculture medicine in Asia’s coastal waters?

Migrant fishers

The brevity of Ms Rivera-Guieb’s note in this issue on the impacts of migrant fishers in one area of the Philippines, belies the importance of her subject. Of little apparent significance in the Pacific Islands, migrant fishers appear, however, to have very serious consequences for fisheries, including live reef fisheries, in parts of Southeast Asia, including the Philippines and Indonesia. Conventional community-based training programs to reduce cyanide fishing and other destructive fishing practices are not appropriate to combat this problem and local communities are often too weak to keep migrant fishers out of their waters. What are the best approaches to this problem? I welcome articles, letters or good references on the subject for publication here.

Bob Johannes


Live reef food fishery trial generates problems in Vanuatu
Naviti N., Hickey F.R. (pdf: 56 KB)
Advantages of pulse fishing in live product fisheries
Graham T.R. (pdf: 81 KB)
The live fish trade on Queensland's Great Barrier Reef: Changes to historical fishing practices
Mapstone B.D., Jones A., Davies C.R., Slade S.J., Williams A.J. (pdf: 55 KB)
An economic analysis of the spawning aggregation function in Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Ruitenbeek H.J. (pdf: 52 KB)
Clove oil used as an anaesthetic with juvenile tropical marine fish
Durville P., Collet A. (pdf: 73 KB)
SPC Pacific Regional Live Reef Fish Trade Initiative
Yeeting B. (pdf: 42 KB)
Targeting the demand side of the live reef fish trade
Simonetti J. (pdf: 45 KB)


Download the complete publication:

Live Reef Fish #9 (pdf:)


The views expressed in this Bulletin are those of the authors and are not necessarily
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