International Standard for the Trade in Live Reef Food Fish

 View of the large and medium-sized islands, and numerous smaller islets, reefs and atolls that ... / ©: WWF-Canon / Soh Koon CHNG
View of the large and medium-sized islands, and numerous smaller islets, reefs and atolls that make-up the Solomon Islands.
© WWF-Canon / Soh Koon CHNG
The International Standard for the Trade in Live Reef Food Fish was developed in response to concerns over the potentially negative impacts of this trade on fish stocks, ecosystems and fishing communities.
In many countries engaged in the trade, there is evidence in some locations of large declines in stocks of targeted species from uncontrolled fishing pressure and widespread incidences of destructive fishing.

What is the live reef food fish trade?

The Live Reef Food Fish Trade (LRFFT) is used to describe the trade in live reef fish for consumption, mainly in Hong Kong and southern China, involving more than 20 supply countries.

International trading in live reef fish began in the early to mid-1980's in countries close to Hong Kong, China such as the Philippines. In the years since, it has expanded progressively throughout Southeast Asia and into the Indo-west and South Pacific.

As the LRRFT expands, some fish stocks plunge

The main reason for this expansion was that fish stocks on reefs nearer to Hong Kong had begun to show signs of depletion. As the LRFFT expanded to other countries, mainly in Southeast Asia, reef fish stocks have also begun to show signs of overfishing in some areas.

This is happening because few fish capable of reproducing remain and fish stocks are not being replenished. With fewer adult fish in the populations, immature fish are now making up a greater proportion of total catches.

Because these smaller, immature fish are below the size demanded by markets in Hong Kong and southern China, they are kept in floating cages where they are “grown-out” until they reach market size. While in these cages, they are fed on fresh fish, which adds further to the pressure on fish stocks.

Impact on coastal communities

The socio-economic impacts of the LRFFT on coastal communities dependent on these resources is also cause for concern. Whilst the LRFFT has provided livelihoods for these communities, the severe depletion of fish stocks has not only diminished future income opportunities but threatened local food security.

Main issues facing the Live Reef Food Fish Trade

  • overfishing and resulting depletion of resources that are in many cases used in other subsistence or commercial fisheries;
  • destruction of corals and mortality of non-target fish when using cyanide for capture;
  • fishing of spawning aggregations for some target species, causing population depletion;
  • poor capture and handling practices leading  to high mortality of captured fish before they reach the market. t;
  • social issues resulting mostly from conflicts regarding access to fish and prices paid;
  • impacts of capture and “growing-out” of immature and undersize wild-caught fish, including lessening the ability of fish stocks to replenish through future reproduction by these immature fiish; and
  • that many non-target fish used as food in local communities are caught to feed live reef food fish during grow-out.
     

Developing an International Standard

The Live Reef Food Fish Trade has the potential to "add value" to a region's reef fish resources if those resource are responsibly exploited.

Attaining long-term benefits from a LRFF fishery requires responsible development, careful and specific management and strict enforcement to reduce potentially negative social and environmental impacts.

The Standard development process had the support of the 21 member economies of APEC and was developed through a multi-stakeholder process involving industry, national governments, non-government organisations, fishing communities, the academic community.

What is the International Standard?

The Standard is a comprehensive reference tool covering all aspects of the trade in live reef food fish. It aims to provide guidance to all participants and managers on:
  • management best practices, including assessment, monitoring, control and enforcement;
  • operational best practices with respect to targeting and catching fish, and management and maintenance of fish health;
  • handling, holding and transportation best-practices for maintaining the quality and the condition of live fish.
The Standard has been divided into 3 parts dealing with the:
  1. Capture of Wild Live Reef Food Fish
  2. Live Reef Food Fish Aquaculture
  3. Trading and Consumption of Live Reef Food Fish
The 3 parts of the Standard are each comprised of a series of Requirements—overview statements that describe the preferred conditions under which a LRFF fishery should operate in countries that supply fish (either from the wild or through aquaculture), and in countries that consume live fish.

Who Are The Intended Users?

The Standard is intended for use by all persons and organisations engaged in the trade in live reef fish including: fishers, traders, buyers, exporters, importers, wholesalers and retailers as well as relevant government departments such as fisheries and aquaculture, environment and trade Chain of Custody.

Although this International Standard is supported by APEC and its 21 member economies, adoption and incorporation of the elements of the Standard into the operation and management of a country's live reef food fish fishery is completely VOLUNTARY.

A first draft

The International Standard for the Trade in Live Reef Food Fish is a first draft only. It is envisaged that it will be reviewed and revised periodically in response to feedback from practitioners and policymakers, as a result of field based applications, or as the need arises.
 / ©: WWF
The International Standard for the Trade in Live Reef Food Fish
© WWF
 / ©: The International Standard for the Trade in Live Reef Food Fish
International Standard for the Trade in Live Reef Food Fish
© The International Standard for the Trade in Live Reef Food Fish

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required