Risks and Benefits of the Marine Aquarium Trade


The marine aquarium trade is typified globally by unsustainable practices, habitat degradation and destructive fishing methods, often evolving as a community level extension of the larger live fish trade. Philippines and our Asian neighbor’s reefs are widely decimated and its fishers living in poverty. Without radical changes to the way the resource base is managed, the amount and ways fishers are paid, and ownership structure of local industry companies, the trade will continue to wreck destruction everywhere it operates. If not properly set up and managed, the marine aquarium trade can be highly destructive to the resource base. It will continue along the way of other artisanal fisheries with heavy resource depletion, destructive fishing practices, deceptive marketing, inequitable development, cut-rate pricing, and community and fisher dissention.

  • massive resource depletion and ecosystem destruction;
  • widespread use of destructive fishing practices further impacting the ability of the resource base to provide food and income to resource owners;
  • inequitable development leading to resource owner and fisher dissatisfaction and dissent;
  • lower product quality leading to customer rejection, lower prices, and loss of markets;
  • local and national level corruption; and
  • and local and national industry collapse.


Listed below are the potential benefits of a properly managed marine aquarium trade to a country and are dependant on specified cost and management factors being in place. Factors such as aquarium fishery management areas with Management Area Plans (MAPs) being set up and properly managed; equitable export business models with fisher equity stakes; effective certification, monitoring and reporting systems; organism traceability; “choke points” established for product export monitoring; effective and reliable funding; consistent Government commitment and support; ongoing research and resource assessment; and reasonable air freight pricing (the single largest cost factor in product export). A properly managed marine aquarium trade is a trade that will:

  • build on and strengthen traditional customs and authority to local governments of resource ownership and land tenure through international market support;
  • create conditions that are supportive of local community ownership and management responsibility of their marine resources;
  • offer coastal fishers an immediate alternative livelihood that is sustainable, and socially and economically viable while building the resource base for other artisanal industries like beche-de-mer and food fisheries;
  • help to restore damaged coastal marine aquarium fishery habitat (the same habitat of beche-de-mer and live reef food fish species);
  • develop marine aquarium community-based aquaculture and mariculture enterprises and markets;
  • impart to a country a leadership role in the promotion of localenterprise development, ownership and management; and
  • distinguish a country’s marine aquarium product in the marketplace as being sustainable, equitable and affordable.
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