Coastal Fisheries Programme

Number 8 - March 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

It seems almost inconceivable that grouper spawning aggregations have been ignored by fisheries biologists and marine resource managers throughout tropical Asia – despite their being documented throughout much the rest of the tropics in many dozens of articles published over the past four decades.

Why is this? Certainly it isn’t because they don’t occur in the region. Live reef food fishers have been telling us about them for a number of years (e.g. this publication: Johannes, issue #3; Pet and Pet-Soede, issue #5; McCullough and Hai, this issue).

The almost total absence of research on protection of grouper spawning aggregations in the region is especially worrying because it is the epicentre of live reef food fish fisheries, which target these aggregations unrestrained by any of the restrictions placed upon their exploitation elsewhere. And, judging by experience elsewhere, destruction of grouper spawning aggregations can be accomplished in as little as three or four years of intensive fishing. Once destroyed, they apparently never recover.

It seems very likely then, that some, if not many, such aggregations and associated stocks have already been destroyed in Southeast Asia – although we may never be able to prove this because there is no biological information. Despite the undeniable importance of spawning aggregations of groupers (as well as many other species of reef food fish), it seems that, in Asia, nobody (except, of course, fishermen) can be bothered with them.

There is a small sign of hope, however, in Indonesia. In 1998 The Nature Conservancy (TNC) brought Lyle Squire to Komodo National Park to locate the grouper aggregations there. He had no difficulty in doing so (e.g. Pet and Djohani, issue #4). Building on this work the Komodo Park Authority, in consultation with TNC, plans to implement a zoning system that will effectively close all known spawning aggregations inside the park for any kind of fishing. This appears to be a first for Southeast Asia. Hopefully, these efforts will be widely copied elsewhere in the region.

In related good news, the use of hookah compressors inside Komodo National Park has been banned. This is a major step by the local government to support TNC’s efforts to protect Komodo’s reef ecosystems, especially groupers, which were suffering heavily from cyanide fishing using hookah compressors (for background see Pet and Djohani, issue #4).

Disappearance of large reef fish

When spawning aggregations are fished out, the fish stocks that they represent tend to disappear too, judging by research on various grouper fisheries. This may help explain the apparent disappearance of large reef fish even from remote eastern Indonesian waters, as described by Jack Randall in this issue.


In the previous issue in this column we called for more attention to be paid to the problem of corruption in connection with enforcement of marine environmental laws. In this issue, we are pleased to be able to publish a stimulating article by Mark Erdmann describing a promising new model for confronting corruption in connection with cyanide and blast fishing in Sulawesi. Those who despair over ever being able to combat Indonesia’s endemic corruption as it relates to conservation laws should read and take heart.

Grouper stock enhancement

In this issue, Mr Patrick Chan, Chairman of the Hong Kong Chamber of Seafood Merchants Limited, suggests that green (i.e. conservationist) groups might want to buy – for release into the wild – the excess fry of giant grouper, Epinephelus lanceolatus, hatched by Taiwanese fish culturists.

The use of hatchery production for wild stock enhancement is an interesting idea and should not be dismissed out of hand. But stock enhancement of marine finfish is not simple or straightforward or necessarily even environmentally benign. Although Bahrain, Taiwan, Japan (Okinawa) and Hong Kong have been experimenting with hatchery-based stock enhancement of groupers, no one has apparently released information showing a resulting, clear-cut improvement in net fishery production. Attempts at stock enhancement of other marine finfish around the world have often failed; some have been little more than expensive public relations exercises.

Because the idea is increasingly being discussed in the region, there is a need for a comprehensive analysis of the pros, cons, pitfalls and likelihood of success of wild stock enhancement of groupers. But until such an analysis becomes available, anyone thinking of trying to enhance grouper stocks by releasing hatchery-produced fish should check the guidelines of the Re-Introduction Specialist Group of IUCN: and consult widely with relevant experts before proceeding.

FAO misdefines fish farming

I read recently that FAO defines fish farming as implying "some sort of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production." This definition is misleading (and a good example of why deconstructionists attack science for its deep-seated, albeit often unconscious biases).

For fish farmers, whose view of their own activities surely ought to carry more than a little weight, fish farming has less to do with increasing production than with increasing profit. The two are by no means synonymous. Whether the wild resource actually suffers as a result of fish farming and total production is thus not enhanced (as, perhaps, when wild juveniles are farmed – see Sadovy this issue – or wild fish are used to feed farmed fish) is not uppermost in most fish farmers’ minds.

Bob Johannes


Trial community fishing and management of live reef food fisheries in Papua New Guinea
Gisawa L., Lokani P. (pdf: 24 KB)
Protecting grouper spawning aggregations, a potential target of the live reef food fish trade in Ysabel and Wagina Islands, Solomon Islands
Johannes R.E., Kile N. (pdf: 37 KB)
An integrated attitude survey on live reef food fish consumption in Hong Kong
Chan N.W.W. (pdf: 31 KB)
The live reef fish trade in Vietnam: A preliminary report from the field
McCullough B., Giang Hai P. (pdf: 35 KB)
Destructive fishing practices mini symposium
Pet-Soede L. (pdf: 32 KB)
Who's minding the reef? Corruption and enforcement in Indonesia
Erdmann M.V. (pdf: 23 KB)
Jack Randall sees dramatic decline in large reef fish in Indonesia
Randall J. (pdf: 19 KB)
IUCN Grouper/Wrasse Specialist Group news
Sadovy Y. (pdf: 18 KB)
Summary of regional survey of fry/fingerling supply for grouper mariculture in Southeast Asia
Sadovy Y. (pdf: 52 KB)
Regional workshop on sustainable seafarming and grouper aquaculture
Sadovy Y. (pdf: 19 KB)
A possible new candidate for grouper aquaculture
Johannes R.E. (pdf: 24 KB)
Taiwan grouper hatchery production in 2000
Chan P. (pdf: 25 KB)
Seed supply for grouper cage culture in Khanh Hoa, Vietnam
Tuan L.A., Hambrey J. (pdf: 33 KB)


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Live Reef Fish #8 (pdf:)


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