Skip to content

A critical assessment of marine aquarist biodiversity data and commercial aquaculture: identifying gaps in culture initiatives to inform local fisheries managers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

It is widely accepted that if well managed, the marine aquarium trade could provide socio-economic stability to local communities while incentivising the maintenance of coral reefs. However, the trade has also been implicated as having potentially widespread environmental impacts that has in part driven developments in aquaculture to relieve wild collection pressures. This study investigates the biodiversity in hobbyist aquaria (using an online survey) and those species currently available from an aquaculture source (commercial data and hobbyist initiatives) in the context of a traffic light system to highlight gaps in aquaculture effort and identify groups that require fisheries assessments. Two hundred and sixty nine species including clown fish, damsels, dotty backs, angelfish, gobies, sea horses and blennies, have reported breeding successes by hobbyists, a pattern mirrored by the European and US commercial organisations. However, there is a mismatch (high demand and low/non-existent aquaculture) for a number of groups including tangs, starfish, anemones and hermit crabs, which we recommend are priority candidates for local stock assessments. Hobbyist perception towards the concept of a sustainable aquarium trade is also explored with results demonstrating that only 40% of respondents were in agreement with industry and scientists who believe the trade could be an exemplar of a sustainable use of coral reefs. We believe that a more transparent evidence base, including the publication of the species collected and cultured, will go some way to align the concept of a sustainable trade across industry stakeholders and better inform the hobbyist when purchasing their aquaria stock. We conclude by proposing that a certification scheme established with government support is the most effective way to move towards a self-regulating industry. It would prevent industry “greenwashing” from multiple certification schemes, alleviate conservation concerns, and, ultimately, support aquaculture initiatives alongside well managed ornamental fisheries.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere105982
JournalPLoS One
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sep 2014


Related information

Relations Get citation (various referencing formats)

ID: 1754047