Can the global marine aquarium trade (MAT) be a model for sustainable coral reef fisheries?

Gordon J. Watson, Shanelle Kohler, Jacob-Joe Collins, Jonathan Richir, Daniele Arduini, Claudio Calabrese, Martin Schaefer

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Abstract

Globally, 6 million coral reef fishers provide ~25% of emergent countries’ catch, but species have low value. The marine aquarium trade (MAT) targets high-value biodiversity, but missing data amplify draconian governance and demand for international prohibition. To stimulate sustainability and reef conservation investment, we generate a fiscal baseline using the first global analysis of numbers, diversity, and biomass of MAT-traded organisms. Each year, ~55 million organisms worth US$2.15 billion at retail are traded comparable with major fisheries, e.g., tuna. A sustainable MAT also requires overexploitation assessments. We identify 25 species/genera with “Extremely High” risk ratios and place the Indonesian and Sulu-Celebes Seas in the highest exploitation category. Despite predicted hobbyist number increases, unabated reef degradation and low governance will transform the MAT into an aquaculture-dominated industry decoupled from communities (i.e., culture located in importing countries). A “MAT-positive” future requires evidence-based management/governance, consumer education, and sustainable practice incentivization but can address the biodiversity and social and economic inequality crises.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbereadh4942
Number of pages12
JournalScience Advances
Volume9
Issue number49
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2023

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