Coastal Fisheries Programme

Number 10 - June 2002

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

Blaming the victims

Corruption, as we have pointed out before in this column, can be a huge impediment to cleaning up the live reef food fish trade. Indonesia, which Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd (1998) found to be the most corrupt of the twelve Asian countries it considered, has suffered enormously from this problem.

Although the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, International Monetary Fund and many other organisations and individual observers have focused recently on the need for broad policy changes to address corruption in Indonesia, there seems to be little research available on how corruption actually works at the village level.

One recent major national policy change has been the decentralisation of bureaucratic authority. The stated philosophy behind this is that local people are more likely to make political and bureaucratic decisions consistent with their needs, and corruption is less likely to flourish. But if the appropriate local institutions are not in place, or are malfunctioning, this is wishful thinking.

We are pleased to publish here an article by Dr Lowe that shows how this malfunctioning actually forces villagers to engage in cyanide fishing for live reef fish, even though they do not want to. They are forced into doing so by a system that is corrupt from top to bottom.

Such intimate studies are few in the corruption literature. In China, for example, about which there are many research publications on corruption, most of the information comes from newspapers! With Dr Lowe’s study we have a rare situation in which a research worker has been in the field observing from close up just how corruption operates.

One hears enough similar stories from other parts of Indonesia and some other countries in the region to know that Dr Lowe’s account is not unusual. What is unusual is that she has published, and thereby recorded for us, an intimate picture of how corruption works at the village level in the live reef food fish trade. Indeed, it shows us how village corruption works in a more general sense as well. It also reveals how villagers, who so often receive much of the blame, may disapprove, but have no option but to participate. We hope this article will be widely disseminated.

It also is worth adding that Dr. Stowe's account demonstrates that well-chosen anecdotes can sometimes be at least as valuable in defining resource management problems as statistics.

The article on war on destructive fishing practices by Mark Erdmann presents an interesting, provocative and somewhat different view of some of these issues. Mark has quite a few years of experience in nearshore fisheries research, including considerable work on the live reef food fish trade in eastern Indonesia.

GBR LRFF managers mean business

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef probably has the best-managed live reef food fishery in the world. But even here, illegal fishing is a problem. In the last financial year, 50 commercial line-fishing dories associated with 27 different primary boats have been apprehended illegally operating in Green Zones (no-fishing) according to Mick Bishop of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). Bishop tells me that the great majority of these dories were involved in the live reef food fish trade. Most of these violations occurred shortly before the Chinese New Year when the demand for live coral trout peaks in Hong Kong and mainland China, where Australia exports nearly all of its live reef food fish. GBRMPA is confident, says Bishop, that most of these cases will go to court and that 'many successful prosecutions will result'. Fines for fishing in a Green Zone can be up to AUD 220,000 (about USD 120,000).


Ethnoveterinary medicine is a vital part of community-based animal health care, especially in developing countries where commercial medicines and treatments are often unavailable or too expensive. The latest (2001) bibliography on this subject has 1240 entries (up from 261 entries in 1989 as noted in an earlier issue of this bulletin).

I’ve never seen an article on ethnoaquaculture. Isn’t it time that research began in an area that is bound to unearth inexpensive and useful methods for disease prevention and treatment of live reef food fish? The need is certainly there. See in this issue, for example, Yvonne Sadovy’s article, Death in the live reef fish trades.

Other useful aspects of rural aquaculture could also undoubtedly be uncovered by the study of ethnoaquaculture, such as the use of cheap local materials for construction, locally designed gear, knowledge of relevant fish behaviour in different cage designs, needs of rural fish farmers with which governments and NGOs might better assist, etc.

Bob Johannes

Note added in press: The most recent issue of Aquaculture Asia (12(1):17—20), contains the first of a series of articles on (fish) farmers as scientists. This is a start on what I am calling for here. I hope the series thrives.


Death in the live reef fish trades
Sadovy Y. (pdf: 41 KB)
The Humphead wrasse - A threatened reef fish
Sadovy Y. (pdf: 20 KB)
Who is to blame? Logics of responsibility in the live reef food fish trade in Sulawesi, Indonesia
Lowe C. (pdf: 80 KB)
Perspective: The WAR on destructive fishing practices
Erdmann M.V. (pdf: 25 KB)
Two responses to: The live fish trade on Queensland's Great Barrier Reef: Changes to historical fishing practices
Samoylis M., Squire L. (pdf: 38 KB)
The status of grouper culture in Southeast Asia
Pomeroy R., Agbayani R., Toledo J., Sugama K., Slamet B., Tridjoko (pdf: 41 KB)
SPC Pacific Regional Live Reef Fish Trade Initiative update
Yeeting B.M. (pdf: 29 KB)
Spawning aggregation closures for the live reef fish fishery in Solomon Islands
Samoilys M. (pdf: 48 KB)
Reef fish post-larvae collection and rearing programme for the aquarium market
Dufour V. (pdf: 25 KB)
Conservation of Banggai cardinalfish populations in Sulawesi, Indonesia: An integrated research and education project
Lunn K.E., Moreau M.-A. (pdf: 32 KB)
FADs for aquarium fish - An alternative capture method?
Pet-Soede L., Lovita F., Zainudin I.M. (pdf: 20 KB)
New aquarium species database
Green E. (pdf: 26 KB)


Download the complete publication:

Live Reef Fish #10 (pdf: )


The views expressed in this Bulletin are those of the authors and are not necessarily
shared by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community
   SPC Homepage | Copyright © SPC 2021