WWF urges moratorium on 'mameng' exports



Posted on 10 September 2012  | 
The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) has called for a stop in the trade and consumption of humphead wrasse —locally called "mameng", one of the most expensive live reef fishes in the world. In a report released at the 10th International Seafood Summit in Hong Kong, the WWF said live reef fish trade in Southeast Asia continues to be a significant problem that threatens the region’s food security. The report, Legal and Policy Gaps in the Management of Live Reef Food Fish Trade in the Coral Triangle Region, urged Coral Triangle countries, which includes the Philippines, to implement a comprehensive management framework on the trade of live reef fish species to help address threats to the region’s seafood supply. “At the heart of this report is the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which is one of the most challenging issues in the trade in live reef food fish in the Coral Triangle,” says Dr. Geoffrey Muldoon, Strategy Leader of the WWF Coral Triangle Initiative. “A regional moratoria on the trade and consumption of humphead wrasse, for starters, can serve as a model for the kind of comprehensive legal and policy measures the trade needs in this region,” Muldoon added. The Coral Triangle region covers the waters of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands. It is one of the most biodiverse places in the world as it contains nearly 30 percent of the world’s coral reefs and more than 3,000 species of fish—twice the number found anywhere else in the world. More than 130 million people living in the region depend on the Coral Triangle for food and livelihood.Humphead wrasse (also called Napoleon wrasse), prized for its meaty white flesh and a regular on Chinese banquets, is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Appendix II classifies species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Australia have been key exporters of live reef fishes for decades, the WWF said. The food fishes are sent to China, Hong Kong, and Singapore, where they are considered delicacies and symbols of an affluent status. A moratorium on mameng from exporting countries like the Philippines could reduce demand for it in China or Hong Kong. According to WWF, mameng fetches HK$99 to 150 per kilo in Hong Kong and more than US$350 per kilo in Beijing and Shanghai “By imposing a moratorium on this species in Indonesia, combined with the existing export moratorium in Malaysia and export limitation in the Philippines, we will have restricted three major trading hubs in the Coral Triangle. This will help curb consumption in Hong Kong and China,” Muldoon said. The popularity and demand for live reef fishes have raised major sustainability concerns. The high prices of the live reef fishes have encouraged marginal fishermen and poachers to use destructive methods such as cyanide fishing and fish bombing in more areas to obtain the fishes. Conservationists fear that the Chinese demand for these species could become a major driver of destruction of the reefs in the Coral Triangle. Poachers have also targeted juvenile fish for closed aquaculture, which has reduced fish stocks, threatening the food security and livelihood of millions. “Up to 70 per cent of reef fish in some places in the region are being taken from the ocean before they even have the opportunity to mature and reproduce, and this will have devastating effects on the delicate ocean food chain in the long term,” Muldoon noted. Putting a moratoria on live reef fish food trade is a daunting task. The trade on these luxury species is a lucrative business. The World Bank estimated industry was worth about US$350 million a year from 1999 to 2002. The World Bank concluded that in 2002, the value of the LRFFT in the Asia Pacific region was over US$810 million. Although the trade is booming, thanks to the demand from the growing Chinese middle class, numbers on the live reef catches are hard to come by. There is also lack of accurate trade information and proper reporting of reef fish trade in exporting countries, including all the CTI countries, the WWF said. Most of the information on the catches come from Hong Kong, which is the center of the trade route from Southeast Asia to mainland China. But even data from Hong Kong is hard to trust: it is estimated that as much as a fifth of total live reef food fish imports into Hong Kong still go unreported, the report noted. The Philippine government, with its extensive marine resources, should put more mechanisms in place to protect the live reef fishes, the WWF said. As a signatory to the CITES, the Philippines has an obligation to protect endangered species like mameng. Aside from the humphead wrasse, the country is also a source of various kinds of groupers and coralgroupers. Although the Philippines have laws against destructive fishing methods and a certification and permit system for the trade of endangered species, WWF said it still lacks specific controls for the live reef fish trade. “Apart from prohibitions on destructive fishing methods, a permit system for endangered species, and food safety requirements for aquaculture products, the Philippines has yet to adopt specific measures on the LRFFT to address gaps in its domestic framework,” the report noted. “Its registration and licensing systems, data collection, port state control and other MCS-related measures apply generally to all types of fisheries. They do not adequately address some of the specific threats to the sustainability of the LRFFT,” it added. — TJD, GMA News
one of the most expensive live reef fishes
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