WWF calls for moratoria on trade and consumption of humphead wrasse in the Coral Triangle
The report, Legal and Policy Gaps in the Management of Live Reef Food Fish Trade in the Coral Triangle Region, examines the legal and policy framework for the live reef food fish trade (LRFFT) in Coral Triangle countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, and East Timor.
“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, WWF Coral Triangle Program Strategy Leader.
“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,” adds Dr Muldoon.
A highly lucrative trade
The Coral Triangle, a 6 million square kilometre ocean expanse in Asia Pacific, contains roughly 37% of the world’s known coral reef fish species.
The trade in live reef food fish in the Coral Triangle was estimated to be worth over US$810 million in 2002. High value species include humphead wrasse, selling for as much as HK$99 to 150 per kilo in luxury restaurants in Hong Kong and more than US$350 per kilo in Beijing and Shanghai.
Aside from Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore are the main importing and consumption markets of live reef food fish in the region. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Australia have been key exporters for decades.
Why the trade needs to be regulated
The growing demand for live reef food fish, the destructive methods of obtaining and rearing reef fish, and the widening geographical scope of the trade all pose major sustainability concerns, raising the urgent need for more effective management.
Destructive fishing methods including cyanide fishing and fish bombing are still rampant in some parts of the region and are rapidly destroying critical coral reef ecosystems.
The capture of juvenile fish for aquaculture is likewise contributing to dwindling fish populations, threatening the food security and livelihood of millions.
“Up to 70% 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,” says Dr Muldoon.
Humphead wrasse is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). While still allowing its local capture and international trade, the listing is intended to ensure that the species is fished sustainably.
“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,” adds Dr Muldoon.
A management framework
The report puts forward the need for Coral Triangle countries to start analyzing governing laws and regulations on the capture and trade of live reef food fish with respect to existing international frameworks.
“Such an analysis will enable these countries to recommend appropriate legal and policy changes, both at the domestic and regional level, to address issues related to the control and management of live reef food fish trade,” says Dr Muldoon.
Download the full report and see the key trends, gaps, and recommendations for wild capture, aquaculture, and the trade and consumption of live reed food fish at: wwf.panda.org/coraltriangle/reefseafoodtrade
- The Coral Triangle—the nursery of the seas—is the world’s center of marine life, encompassing around 6 million sq km of ocean across six countries in Asia-Pacific – Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste.
- It is home to 76% of the world’s known coral species, 37% of the world’s coral reef fish species, and commercially- valuable species such as tuna, whales, dolphins, rays, sharks, including 6 of the world’s 7 known species of marine turtles.
- The Coral Triangle directly sustains the lives of more than 120 million people and contains key spawning and nursery grounds for tuna. Its reef and coastal systems also underpin a growing tourism sector.
- WWF is working with governments, local communities, businesses, and consumers to promote sustainable development in this region. For information on Coral Triangle go to: www.panda.org/coraltriangle
Paolo P. Mangahas, Communications Manager, WWF Coral Triangle Programme, firstname.lastname@example.org
Geoffrey Muldoon, Strategy Leader, WWF Coral Triangle Programme, email@example.com