Coastal Fisheries Programme

Number 4 - April 1998

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 APEC-sponsored conference on destructive fishing held in Hong Kong in early December l997 produced some noteworthy papers on the live reef-fish trade. Revised and updated versions of two of them are presented in this issue of the information bulletin (Recommendations arising from the meeting had not been finalised in time for this issue, so they will appear in the next issue.)

At the workshop, Yvonne Sadovy predicted that ciguatera (a kind of toxin that makes reef fish poisonous to human consumers) was likely to become a problem in Hong Kong sooner or later (see her ciguatera article, this issue). It proved to be sooner; within weeks an outbreak occurred, with over l00 hospital cases (see her appendix to the above article). Consumption plummeted along with prices.

This was not the only cause of reduced consumption in Hong Kong, however. One of the major figures in the Hong Kong live reef food-fish trade told me at the workshop that Asiaís economic dive was taking its toll on the demand for live reef fish. His company supplies live reef fish to a hotel chain over the Chinese new year period, a time of many banquets and much consumption of live reef fish. This year, he said, the hotel chain ordered 40 per cent fewer fish than it did last year at this time, anticipating a major slump in demand because of the plummeting Hong Kong stock market.

Another paper given by Lida Pet-Soede and Mark Erdmann at the workshop provided a lot of food for thought. Among their interesting conclusions (see their article in this issue) is that , in at least some parts of Indonesia, fishermen are making an extremely good living from the trade, which is driven more by greed than need. They also speculate that repeated use of cyanide by aquarium fish collectors in an area is more likely to cause serious damage to reefs than typical live reef food-fish cyaniding operations. In addition, they provide evidence that, as predicted, target stocks are rapidly diminishing in Indonesia, and that as they decline, fishing methods appear to evolve from (a) cyanide fishing, to (b) hook-and-line and trap fishing, to (c) trap fishing for juveniles for grow-out, to (d) an almost post-apocalyptic no live reef fishery at all.


Ignorance of the most basic procedures for handling and holding fish seems to be the rule rather than the exception among live reef food-fish operators in Indonesia, the Philippines and the Pacific Islands. Improper decompression of fish brought up from deep water continues to damage fish unnecessarily. Fish are often much too crowded in holding pens. Diseased fish are not quarantined. Antibiotics are not used properly. Feeding is often haphazard and feed quality is poor. Water quality is poor. Because the industry is made up of many small, competing companies, there is little incentive for good operators to disseminate their knowledge.

Such bad practices help explain why there are so many reports of high to very high mortalities in the trade. This is not just harmful to the companies involved; every fish that dies before it reaches the plate means that an additional fish is needed to satisfy consumer demand. If efforts were made to educate the industry everyone would benefit, including the fish.


Recent experience in some Pacific Islands shows that governments should give their fisheries departments the primary responsibility for granting permits for live reef-fish operations and ensure that department personnel are trained appropriately. If other agencies, such as foreign investment boards, are given the responsibility, they run a much higher risk of promoting activities that are harmful economically and environmentally because of lack of familiarity with of the pitfalls of the trade. Fisheries departments should be trained in appropriate licensing procedures and, in turn, should assist traditional fishing rights owners in negotiating fair contracts with LRF companies.


How many times have we heard that humphead (Maori, Napoleon) wrasse must be caught with cyanide because they cannot be caught with hook and line. I am convinced that at least some of the fishermen who say this actually believe it. Can anyone explain how this unfortunate myth arose?

Bob Johannes


Turning the poison tide: The International Marine life Alliance's Cyanide Fishing Reform Pilot Program in Indonesia
Barber C.V. (pdf: 121 KB)
The Haribon Netsman Training Program
Anon. (pdf: 120 KB)
Who can challenge them? Lessons learned from attempting to curb cyanide fishing in Maluku, Indonesia
Adhuri D.S. (pdf: 126 KB)
Combating destructive fishing practices in Komodo National Park: Ban the hookah compressor!
Pet J.S., Djohani R.H. (pdf: 268 KB)
An overview and comparison of destructive fishing practices in Indonesia
Pet-Soede L., Erdmann M. (pdf: 134 KB)
Wild collection of juveniles for grouper mariculture: Just another capture fishery?
Sadovy Y., Pet J. (pdf: 111 KB)
Grouper and snapper aquaculture in Taiwan
Rimmer M. (pdf: 116 KB)
Culture of coral reef fishes
Job S., Arvedlund M., Marnane M. (pdf: 114 KB)
Marketing and monitoring live reef fishes in Hong Kong, an update
Sadovy Y. (pdf: 116 KB)
Ciguatera hits Hong Kong live food-fish trade
Sadovy Y. (pdf: 106 KB)


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Live Reef Fish #4 (pdf:)


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