A review of the Papua New Guinea marine aquarium fishery

Militz, Thane A. (2017) A review of the Papua New Guinea marine aquarium fishery. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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View at Publisher Website: https://doi.org/10.25903/hzgj-qm75


The marine aquarium trade is characterised by numerous source countries that collect a diversity of coral reef associated fishes and invertebrates primarily destined for private and public aquaria worldwide. While aquaculture accounts for a few species entering the trade, the bulk of diversity must still be collected from wild populations. With most organisms being sourced from economically marginalised countries in the Indo-Pacific region, the marine aquarium trade has potential to offer a sustainable livelihood opportunity to the custodians of these source habitats. However, in the absence of appropriate management, unsustainable practices can flourish, including use of anaesthetising chemicals (i.e., sodium cyanide) and physical reef damage to collect organisms. In order for long-term benefits of the marine aquarium trade to be accrued by local custodians, effective management systems must be in place. The marine aquarium fishery of Papua New Guinea (PNG) first opened in 2008 and was relatively short lived, closing in 2012. The fishery operated under both a government funded consultancy (2008-2010) and a private commercial entity (2011-2012). Since then, no further commercial exports of marine aquarium organisms have occurred. The apparent lack of viability in this fishery has not yet been evaluated. It is uncertain to what extent government management, operator practices, or consumer attitudes impacted the viability of initial operations. This thesis examines those factors anticipated to impact on the viability of marine aquarium fishery operations within PNG and extends these findings to marine aquarium fisheries at a regional and global level. The existing system of management, encompassing spatial restrictions of fishing effort, limited entry through licensing, gear restrictions, bans on destructive fishing methods, and species-specific Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for 369 species created an unsustainable management burden bourne by the fishery. The collection practices of the PNG fishery were found to be highly selective, collecting fishes disproportionate to their availability (i.e., TAC), rendering many of the established species-specific TACs obsolete. Specifically, 53.2 % (n = 142) of fish species and 87.3 % (n = 89) of invertebrate species with assigned TACs were never collected by the commercial fishery in 2011-2012. A further 124 fish species were collected in the absence of assigned TACs. Of the fish and invertebrate species collected, only three fish species (Amphiprion percula, Paracanthurus hepatus, and Hemiscyllium hallstromi) were found to merit species-specific TACs. By narrowing the focus of species-specific management to those species actually requiring such management attention this refinement of TAC use will reduce the management burden posed by the fishery. The selectivity of the marine aquarium fishery was found to extend beyond species to specific colour morphs of species. This was true for two of the most collected species, A. percula and Premnas biaculeatus. The export price of rare colour morphs was found to increase with decreasing natural abundance (y = 4.73x-0.53, R2 = 0.97), but were well below the value-for-rarity threshold (y = 4.21x-1.00) derived from the price of regular morphs. This suggests the observed targeted exploitation of rare clownfish morphs in the PNG fishery was a less profitable fishing strategy than opportunistic exploitation, where fishes are collected by random encounters. Supply-chain losses attributed to both quality control rejections and mortality were high in 2010. Quality control rejections accounted for a supply-chain loss of 24.2 % of fishes and 11.5 % of non-CITES invertebrates. Among the accepted catch, a mortality of 27.3 % of fishes and 30.6 % of invertebrates occurred prior to export. Where losses occur after purchasing organisms from fishers, this comes as an economic loss to the exporting operator. The loss of one out of every three purchased organisms would have greatly impacted on the economic viability of the fishery. This finding also raises concern over the accuracy of trade data (i.e., export invoices) to accurately monitor exploitation of the trade and raises ethical concerns in regards to humanitarian standards for the treatment of animals. In the absence of prior reviews of practice, the PNG marketing approach of "sustainability" appears to have engendered consumer support for PNG marine aquarium fishery products. In an online survey, consumers were found to show preference for buying a PNG fish over fish sourced from Vietnam, Indonesia, or the Philippines. However, consumers were more likely to purchase fish independently certified for themes of environmentally sustainable, industry best practice, or revenue supporting indigenous fishers compared to purchasing fish from any of the specific countries included in the survey. This suggests consumers want product information validated by a trustworthy third-party. At a global scale, there is minimal evidence that media influences consumer demand, with consumer demand appearing to be more dependent on global economy and advancements in captive husbandry technology. The viability of the marine aquarium trade in PNG appears to have been largely hindered by supply chain losses. While this was empirically evaluated in 2010, there appears to have been little improvement within the fishery as export invoices underestimated catch by 29.3 % in 2012. As such, a direct comparison of the PNG fishery is made to a long-running Fijian supply chain. This identifies areas requiring improvement for better viability of future marine aquarium trade operations in PNG. The research contained within this Thesis is likely to be of interest to PNG, regional marine aquarium fisheries, and the global marine aquarium community.

Item ID: 64481
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Aquarium trade ; Aquarium fisheries ; Wildlife trade Management ; Papua New Guinea ; Sustainable development
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Copyright Information: Copyright © 2017 Thane A. Militz.
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4 publications arising from this thesis are stored in ResearchOnline@JCU, at the time of processing. Please see the Related URLs. The publications are:

Chapter 3: Militz, Thane A., Foale, Simon, Kinch, Jeff, and Southgate, Paul C. (2018) Natural rarity places clownfish colour morphs at risk of targeted and opportunistic exploitation in a marine aquarium fishery. Aquatic Living Resources, 31. 18.

Chapter 4: Militz, Thane, Kinch, Jeff, Foale, Simon, and Southgate, Paul (2016) Fish rejections in the marine aquarium trade: an initial case study raises concern for village-based fisheries. PLoS ONE, 11 (3). e0151624. pp. 1-14.

Chapter 7: Militz, Thane A., Foale, Simon, Kinch, Jeff, and Southgate, Paul C. (2017) Consumer perspectives on theoretical certification schemes for the marine aquarium trade. Fisheries Research, 193. pp. 33-42.

Chapter 8: Militz, Thane A., and Foale, Simon (2017) The "Nemo Effect": perception and reality of Finding Nemo's impact on marine aquarium fisheries. Fish and Fisheries, 18 (3). pp. 596-606.

Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2020 04:41
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0704 Fisheries Sciences > 070403 Fisheries Management @ 50%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0704 Fisheries Sciences > 070406 Post-Harvest Fisheries Technologies (incl Transportation) @ 30%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0704 Fisheries Sciences > 070402 Aquatic Ecosystem Studies and Stock Assessment @ 20%
SEO Codes: 83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8302 Fisheries - Wild Caught > 830201 Fisheries Recreational @ 75%
83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8398 Environmentally Sustainable Animal Production > 839899 Environmentally Sustainable Animal Production not elsewhere classified @ 25%
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