27 February 2009

Eating live grouper devastates reefs and lives

After 40 years of unregulated cyanide and dynamite fishing, thousands of people in the Philippines are in danger of losing their livelihoods.
Juvenile humphead wrasse (far left and far right), amongst other live tropical coral reef fish kept in water tanks before being sold to customers. Fish market, Hong Kong. China. From the WWF website.

The trade in live reef fish bound for expensive seafood restaurants in China, Hong Kong and Singapore is facing imminent collapse. 60% of all fish taken from the reefs around Palawan province, are now juveniles, a good indication that it has been highly overfished.

The WWF said a survey last year found that 20 of 161 species of grouper, a reef fish that makes up a large part of the Coral Triangle's live fish trade, were threatened with extinction. The 20 include the squaretail coral grouper and humpback grouper, which are a popular luxury live food in Asian seafood restaurants.

Is Singapore a part of this problem?

From Go easy on the grouper to save Coral Triangle Liaw Wy-Cin, Straits Times 6 Sep 08;
After Hong Kong, Singapore is the second-largest consumer of these fish in the region, noted the leader of the WWF's Coral Triangle Network Initiative, Dr Lida Pet-Soede.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, which oversees the food supply here, says Singaporeans consume about 120,000 tonnes of fish a year, most of them from the waters of Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Among the 15 most popular fish consumed here are the Spanish mackerel, commonly known as batang, salmon, pomfret and seabass.

WWF says more than 500 tonnes of fish consumed here in a year are coral reef fish, and three-quarters of these are various types of grouper. The reason the consumption of the grouper and the wrasse is worrying conservationists is that these fish are at the top of the food chain in the reefs.

'When they are gone, it means other fish normally eaten by them will increase in number. And some of these fish are harmful to the reefs,'

Is there a solution?
from WWF: Philippines dealers to cut reef fish exports Yahoo News 26 Feb 09;
This week, live fish traders in the Philippines have accepted a quota plan designed to cut the coral trout catch and prevent a collapse of the reef fish industry, the World Wildlife Fund said Thursday.

The live reef fish catch would be cut by 27 per cent, or around 200 tonnes a year.

The Philippines is the biggest supplier of coral trout, the most highly valued live reef fish, to seafood hubs such as Hong Kong and China.

"The trade in live reef fish in Palawan supports entire communities, many of which have few alternatives for livelihoods," said Geoffrey Muldoon of the fund's Coral Triangle Programme. "Under a business-as-usual scenario, Palawan's live reef fish trade would become economically unviable in about a decade."
Of course, we can also play a part by not eating live reef fish.

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