Marine Aquarium Council News 1st Quarter 2001

Paul Holthus paul.holthus at
Fri Apr 6 11:39:15 EDT 2001


Certification for Quality and Sustainability
in the Collection, Culture and Commerce of Marine Ornamentals

MAC NEWS 1st Quarter 2001


We pleased to reconfirm in this first MAC News of 2001 that are on track for
international certification and labeling for the marine aquarium trade to be
launched this year  and you can be a part of making this happen. 


As announced in the last issue of MAC News, the draft MAC “Core Standards” and
“Best Practice” guidelines are posted on the MAC website for public for
comment. These are available for review until 15 April and your input is
valued. Visit to see the standards and the guidelines
for commenting.

The “Core Standards” set the basic criteria for certification that address the
critical and urgent issues related to sustainability, environmental impact,
husbandry etc. in the collection and commerce of marine ornamentals. The
accompanying “Best Practice” guidance documents provide advice on actions that
will lead to likely compliance with the Standards.

Following public input, the Standards will be reviewed and revised one last
time by the international MAC Standards Advisory Group. The SAG member list is
posted on the MAC website and includes representatives of industry,
conservation, government agencies, and academic community from around the
world. During the two years following the launch of the “Core Standards”, a
comprehensive set of  “Full Standards” will be developed to address a more
comprehensive range of issues and approaches to ensuring sustainability for
marine aquarium trade, as well as including standards for Maricuture and

Scope And Purpose of the MAC Standards

Standards for Ecosystem Management 
Scope: Ecosystem and fishery management and conservation of the collection
Purpose: To verify that the collection area is managed according to principles
of ecosystem management in order to ensure ecosystem integrity and the
sustainable use of the marine aquarium fishery.

Standards for Collection and Fishing
Scope: Fish, coral, live rock, other coral reef organisms, and associated
harvesting and related activities, e.g. field handling and holding practices.
Purpose: To verify that the collection, fishing, and pre-exporter handling,
packaging and transport of marine aquarium organisms ensures the ecosystem
integrity of the collection area, sustainable use of the marine aquarium
fishery, and optimal health of the harvested organisms.

Standards for Handling and Transport 
Scope: Holding, husbandry, packing, transport, etc. at wholesale, retail
and all
other branches of the marine aquarium industry.
Purpose: To verify that the husbandry, handling, packing and transport of
aquarium organisms ensures the optimal health of the organisms.

MAC Science and Monitoring Advisory Committee 

MAC is forming a Science and Monitoring Advisory Committee to assist us in the
science, research, assessment, and monitoring of coral reefs and marine
aquarium organisms in relation to certification, sustainability and
environmental impacts. Some of the initial tasks for the group include
reviewing the draft monitoring protocol (see below) and developing a MAC
priority research agenda to help guide the numerous graduate students that
contact us with an interest in undertaking field research related to the
aquarium trade. 

Reef Monitoring Protocol Under Development by Reef Check/GCRMN

Development of a Reef Monitoring Protocol related to MAC Certification is well
underway. In early 2000 MAC contacted the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network
(GCRMN) to create the monitoring program and GCRMN requested Reef Check to
the lead on this. MAC and Reef Check have formed a partnership project to:
- Determine which species need to be monitored and design the protocol.
- Test the design of the monitoring system.
- Analyze the data and revise MAC ecosystem management and collection

A draft monitoring protocol and species list have now been developed. These
be reviewed by a Task Team of the MAC Science and Monitoring Advisory
and then tested in the field. We strongly encourage those involved or
in monitoring coral reefs and reef animals in relation to the aquarium
trade to
collaborate with the MAC- Reef Check/GCRMN development of an international
monitoring protocol.

MAC and IMA Sign MOU and Launch Partnership Project

MAC and the International Marinelife Alliance (IMA) have signed a
Memorandum of
Understanding reiterating our shared interest in ensuring a sustainable future
for coral reefs and agreeing to collaborate through partnership projects.

The first MAC-IMA Partnership Project will work to ensure a critical mass of
collection areas and collectors in the Philippines have the potential to
with MAC Core Standards by: identifying pilot program collectors and
sites, assessing the collector collection and husbandry skills, developing a
training program in collection, handling and collection area management based
on MAC standards, evaluating collectors ability to meet MAC standards.

Clarifying Cyanide Testing in Relation to MAC Certification

Most MAC Network members will be familiar with the cyanide detection tests
conducted in the Philippines by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources
(BFAR) and the IMA. Fish awaiting export are randomly tested and if no cyanide
is detected, there is a “certificate” to that fact. 

Unfortunately, these certificates have inappropriately used by some to claim
that “certified” net caught fish are now available. Cyanide detection testing
can only evaluate cyanide presence or absence. The testing unfortunately
verify whether fish are net-caught or verify any other aspect of
sustainability, e.g. good practices in handling and husbandry. The misuse
of the
term “certified” can create confusion as to what is certified for what and by

MAC and IMA have reaffirmed our agreement that it is inappropriate to use the
term "certified" except in the context of MAC Certification. We have agreed
an appropriate short hand way to characterize fish that have been tested for
cyanide in the Philippines is "Tested Cyanide-Free”. A more complete
description is that: "These fish are from a shipment that was randomly sampled
and tested in the Cyanide Detection Test center of the Philippines BFAR and
found to contain no detectable cyanide"

On the broader issue of the validity of cyanide detection methods in relation
to MAC Certification, MAC is establishing a Chemical Detection Methods
that will identify and approve credible, accurate and reliable methods for
detecting chemicals suspected of being used in the collection of marine
aquarium organisms. 

Pacific Regional Workshop and Fiji National Workshop on Aquarium Trade

In February, MAC joined government, industry and conservation organization
representatives from American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Marshall Islands,
Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu in Fiji for a workshop
organized by the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP),
by a gathering of aquarium trade stakeholders from Fiji. The focus was on the
role of government, communities, the industry and certification in ensuring
that the aquarium trade in the Pacific region is sustainable. Meeting
participants from around the Pacific supported the need and potential for MAC
certification to play a significant role in sustainability, in close
collaboration with Pacific Island communities and governments.

For More Information on MAC or for Copies of the MAC Brochure
Visit the MAC website: or contact us at:
info at

Paul Holthus  
Executive Director, Marine Aquarium Council  

923 Nu'uanu Ave., Honolulu, Hawaii  USA  96817 
Phone: (+1 808) 550-8217    Fax: (+1 808) 550-8317  
Email: paul.holthus at  
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