Environmental Conservation


Managing the marine aquarium trade: is eco-certification the answer?

a1 Environmental Science and Engineering Program, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Box 951772, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1772, USA
a2 Reef Check, Institute of the Environment, Box 951496, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1496, USA
a3 Heal the Bay, 3220 Nebraska Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404, USA

Article author query
shuman cs   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
hodgson g   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
ambrose rf   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Global trade in marine ornamental species includes numerous countries; however, 80% of the trade involves exports from the Philippines and Indonesia to the USA. The worldwide import value of marine ornamentals is estimated at US$ 200–330 million annually. Recent concern regarding sustainability and environmental impacts on coral reefs where collection occurs has spurred debate as to how best to monitor, manage and regulate the industry. A certification programme proposed by the Marine Aquarium Council (MAC) has the potential to manage the trade efficiently by minimizing environmental impacts, thus continuing this important source of income for impoverished coastal villagers. The MAC Ecosystem and Fishery Management (EFM) Standard was established to protect fish stocks from overexploitation and will be the most difficult component of the certification programme to implement. Prerequisites for successful EFM in developing nations are local control over fisheries and accurate records to monitor catch. Collector logs were found to be a useful tool to monitor both catch per unit effort (CPUE) and catch composition from collection areas in the Philippines. Comparison of catch composition in two distinct regions of the Philippines indicated that one site was severely overfished while the other was moderately overfished. The Collection Area Management Plan required by the MAC certification programme, combined with the current legal framework in the Philippines allowing for local jurisdiction of reef resources, has the potential to prevent further overfishing in the latter region. Until sufficient ecological data can be obtained, CPUE can provide an effective means to monitor and manage the fishery within the framework of the MAC certification programme. Despite effective management plans in source nations, legislation in receiving nations may be required to help stimulate a strong market demand for certified ornamentals if the MAC certification programme is to be successful.

(Published Online April 13 2005)
(Received March 3 2004)
(Accepted October 19 2004)

Key Words: aquarium trade; catch-per-unit-effort; coral reef conservation; eco-certification; fisheries management; Philippines.

c1 Correspondence: Dr Richard F. Ambrose Tel: +1 310 825 6144 Fax: +1 310 206 3358 e-mail: rambrose@ucla.edu