cyanide/live reef food fish trade

Bob Johannes bobjoh at
Sat Feb 10 20:15:02 EST 1996

Summary of Report entitled: Environmental, Economic and Social Implications 
of the Fishery for Live Coral Reef Food Fish in Asia and the Western 
by Robert E. Johannes and Michael Riepen 

Summarized below is a recently released 33,000 word report on the 
environmentally devastating but not widely known live reef food fish trade 
that is spreading for thousands of miles from its center in Southeast Asia. 
The report is based on an investigation which took the authors to nine 
countries in the region and involved interviews with several hundred 
individuals, including fishermen, divers, dive tour operators, social and 
biological researchers, members of national and international NGOs, live 
reef food fish exporters and importers, government officials, aquaculture 
experts, fish farmers and village leaders. 

Copies of the full report can be obtained from Carol Fox of The Nature 
Conservancy in Honolulu, fax number 1 808 545 2019 - email cfox at 
For more information contact Bob Johannes 8 Tyndall Court, Bonnet Hill, 
Tasmania 7053, Australia  Phone 002  298 064  -  Fax 002 298 066 - Email 
bobjoh at 


                                Summary of the Summary 

A billion dollar restaurant trade in live reef fish has grown up o over the 
past decade in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Taiwan, and other Chinese 
population centers.  To stun and capture reef fish for this market, 
hundreds of tons of sodium cyanide are being pumped annually into the coral 
reefs of Southeast Asia, degrading the most species-rich marine communities 
in the world.  In addition, intensive hook and line fishing to supply this 
market has completely eliminated some grouper spawning aggregations in the 
region. The Philippines and Indonesia are being rapidly depleted of target 
species.  In consequence, and because of escalating demand for live reef 
fish in China, these fishing practices are spreading into the Western 
Pacific Islands to the east and the Indian Ocean to the west.  Fishing 
companies involved in the trade are especially optimistic about prospects 
in Papua New Guinea. The trade is destructive not only to the marine 
environment, but also to the economies and the social fabric of coastal 
fishing communities in the region. It is also resulting in the death or 
paralysis of many untrained divers, due to the bends. Despite the appalling 
destruction being caused by this industry, it could be put on an 
environmentally and economically sustainable basis. We propose a series of 
actions to bring this about. 

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