Coastal Fisheries Programme

Number 7 - May 2000

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

Baby sharks newest Live Reef Fish Trade target

As this edition went to press I received worrying reports from two regular Indonesia-based contributors to the SPC Live Reef Fish Information Bulletin–Mark Erdmann in Sulawesi and Jos Pet in Komodo. Mark says that during a recent trip around Sulawesi, 13 different villages claimed that within the last three months, large live fish transport boats were moored offshore. These vessels were accompanied by around 20 small fiberglass skiffs engaged in catching baby sharks (along with the usual groupers and humphead wrasse, which are growing extremely scarce in shallow water in the area).

Meanwhile, Jos reports that shark pups, especially reef blacktips, are being taken in very large quantities from Komodo and are being shipped by the ‘boat loads’. Jos says that for the past year or so, ‘baby shark’ has been featured on tourist restaurant menus in Labuan Bajo. He surmises that these may be the fish that die during capture or storage. This sounds plausible, considering that many sharks (including reef blacktips) must swim continuously in order to get enough oxygen–and so will probably not tolerate life in small cages as well as groupers and wrasse.

Sharks are slow-growing, late-maturing fish that have only a handful of babies. Reef blacktips, for example, have only 1–3 pups. For these reasons, experts say that that most shark populations cannot withstand a fishing mortality even as low as 5% of the existing population each year. Given the current pressure on shark populations by shark finning operations in the region, this new fishery is clearly a cause for concern. I would be very interested in receiving reports (even if just a paragraph of two) from other areas on the targeting of shark pups for the live reef fish trade.

Industry perspective

The perspective of the live reef food fish industry has been poorly represented in this publication. The problem has been finding appropriate people willing to write. Fortunately, Mr Patrick Chan, Chairman, Hong Kong Chamber of Seafood Merchants Ltd. has come to the rescue in this issue with two information-filled articles on the Hong Kong industry’s perspectives and problems.

Aquaculture cost/benefit

Mike Rimmer makes the point in a recent article on Reef Fish Aquaculture (see Noteworthy Publications this issue), that the costs for aquaculture research and development (R&D) are very high, but the financial rewards to a country can be much larger. The cost of establishing the Atlantic salmon industry in Norway, for example, was estimated at about US$ 55 million over eight years, but the industry is now valued at ten times that amount per year. The US catfish industry cost about US$ 42 million for initial R&D, but is now worth more than six times that amount annually.

While selling the virtues of aquaculture to our politicians and others, however, we must discourage them from looking upon it as an alternative to improved fisheries management. By aquaculturing reef fish, we may take some of the pressure off wild stocks of some species, but aquaculture by itself is not enough. The need for improved fisheries management in much of the coastal tropics is urgent, and aquaculture, no matter how successful it might some day become, can never replace improved management of wild stocks (e.g. see Mous et al., this issue).

Moreover, if researchers don’t come up with suitable, vegetable-based foods for carnivorous fish such as groupers, their expanding culture will ultimately place insupportable pressures on wild stocks of the species used as feed.

Eggs and stress

Various industry reports indicate that gravid female coral trout are subject to considerably higher mortality in holding facilities and in transit than males or non-gravid females. If this is the case, it is one more reason for not targeting spawning aggregations for the live reef food fish trade. Unfortunately there is no published research describing the relationship between female sexual maturity and stress tolerance of groupers or any other fish. Much research has been published on the effects of stress on fish reproduction but very little on the converse–the influence of reproductive status on stress tolerance. Here is a research opportunity begging for the attention of fish endocrinologists and physiologists.

More debate sought

Neither this editor nor the SPC or TNC, who support this publication, always agree with what goes into these pages. I believe that this is the way it should be. Some of the articles in this issue in particular, put forward controversial opinions. They offer good starting points for constructive debate. If you disagree with, or support, any of these opinions, let us know–in the form of letters to the editor, short or long articles, or opinion pieces.

Western tropical Atlantic countries leave us for dead

Once again a western Atlantic country demonstrates why this region is so far ahead of the Indo-Pacific in protecting reef fish spawning aggregations. The Bahamas government has recently approved the establishment of five no-take marine reserves. All of these sites contain known Nassau grouper spawning aggregations. Although stocks of Nassau grouper in the Bahamas appear to be healthy, these closures, coupled with other research activities, are being implemented to ensure that conservative management measures are taken as a precaution against the stock collapses that have occurred in other locations that once held stocks of Nassau grouper.

Cyanide doesn’t kill fish???

Among the 328 people that attended the first international conference on marine ornamental species in Hawaii last November ‘the position was taken that fish exposed to cyanide recover’, according to Robert R. Stickney (Marine Ornamentals 99. World Aquaculture 31(1): p. 4). I suppose I ought to make some comment on this assertion, but it leaves me speechless.

Bob Johannes


The industry perspective: Wholesale and retail marketing aspects of the Hong Kong Live Reef Food Fish Trade
Chan P. (pdf: 37 KB)
Current status of the live reef fish trade based in Hong Kong
Chan P.S.W. (pdf: 24 KB)
The Second International Conference and Exhibition on the Marketing and Shipping of Live Aquatic Products '99
Sadovy Y. (pdf: 23 KB)
Ciguatera management
Lewis R.J. (pdf: 37 KB)
Grouper/wrasse species survival group formed
Sadovy Y. (pdf: 28 KB)
Review of grouper hatchery technology
Rimmer M. (pdf: 51 KB)
Cyanide fishing on Indonesian coral reefs for the live food fish market - What is the problem?
Mous P.J., Pet-Soede L., Erdmann M., Herman S.J., Cesar H.S.J., Sadovy J., Pet J.S. (pdf: 82 KB)
Cyanide-free, net-caught fish for the Marine Aquarium Trade
Rubec P.J., Cruz F., Pratt V., Oellers R., Lallo F. (pdf: 52 KB)
A new e-mail discussion group on the Live Reef Fish Trade
Adams T. (pdf: 25 KB)


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Live Reef Fish #7 (pdf:)


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