CYANIDE FISHING IN ASIAN CORAL REEFS
Coral Health and Monitoring Program
coral at coral.AOML.ERL.GOV
Wed Oct 18 21:29:05 EDT 1995
This message is forwarded from the marine biology list. It has relevance
to our study of coral health.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 31 Oct 1995 11:43:01 -0500
From: DAVE SALMAN <SALMAN.DAVE at EPAMAIL.EPA.GOV>
To: marbio at marinelab.sarasota.fl.us
Subject: marbio: CYANIDE FISHING IN ASIAN CORAL REEFS
SEE ATTACHED ITEM FROM 10/31 GREENWIRE
------------------- GW1031 follows --------------------
*1 FISHERIES: CYANIDE FISHING DEVASTATES ASIAN CORAL REEFS
"In an ecological disaster that has gone largely unnoticed
outside of the region, Asian fishing companies are using tons of
sodium cyanide to fish the coral reefs of Southeast Asia, turning
the world's richest marine environments into aquatic graveyards,"
reports Alex Barnum in the S.F. CHRONICLE.
With restaurant-goers in Hong Kong and China demanding
large, exotic live reef fish, cyanide fishing is booming. In the
practice, divers squirt cyanide into coral reefs, temporarily
stunning the fish (10/28), which are then shipped to market and
sold at prices up to $40 a pound. While the cyanide "is not
toxic to people in the dose used for fishing," it is "more than
enough" (William Stevens, N.Y. TIMES, 10/31) to destroy reef
ecosystems. "Within weeks, the reef's riot of colorful marine
life becomes an empty, gray wasteland" (Barnum, S.F, CHRONICLE).
AN "ENVIRONMENTAL MURDER"
Cyanide fishing began in the 1980s, but it has become so
widespread -- extending from the Maldives to the Solomon Islands
and Australia -- that it is "wiping out broad expanses of what
ecologists say is the global epicenter of biological diversity."
Marine ecologist Robert Johannes, who recently completed a study
on cyanide fishing funded by the Nature Conservancy and the South
Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency: "We've got a big environmental
murder going on" (Stevens, N.Y. TIMES).
The practice has destroyed most of the coral reefs in
Indonesia and the Philippines, and is likely to spread next to
Papua New Guinea and other South Pacific Islands, according to
Johannes (Barnum, S.F. CHRONICLE). The need to meet increasing
demand as coral reef fisheries decline has prompted cyanide
fishers to take more drastic action, sometimes dumping entire 55-
gallon drums of cyanide into shallow reef communities.
GROWING MARKET, GROWING STRAINS
"No slowing in the geographic expansion of the fishery nor
of consumer demand is in sight," the report says. Other nations,
including China, Taiwan, Singapore and Japan, are increasingly
involved in both cyanide fishing and the consumption of large
reef fish. Reefs are also under pressure from "a warming
climate, pollution, overfishing and physical destruction."
THE ENFORCEMENT ANGLE
Most nations have banned the use of poison for fishing, but
governments have been unable to enforce the laws. The report
points to bribery as a possible cause of poor enforcement and
suggests involving villagers in the management of coral reefs.
In a statement, the Hong Kong Agriculture and Fisheries
Dept. said evidence of widespread reef destruction "is anecdotal
and without verification through survey." While the agency
called the reports of reef destruction "regrettable," it said the
capture of reef fish "is a legitimate exploitation of a marine
resource" (Stevens, N.Y. TIMES).
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