[Coral-List] Why is MAC certification a Failure?

Gregor Hodgson gregorh at reefcheck.org
Sat Feb 23 23:12:35 EST 2008

The purpose of MAC certification was to try to create a sustainable marine
aquarium trade by transforming the industry through three components called

1) EFM -- Ecosystem and Fishery Management Standard - to create sustainable
fishery practices.
2) CFM - Collection Fishing and Handling Standard - to create good fishing
and handling practices prior to export.
3) HHT - Handling, Husbandry and Transport Standard - to create good
handling and transport practice during export and import.


This system includes many fine aspects, however, it was overly complex to be
practical, and MAC's paternalistic approach was not well received by most of
the industry.

The success of certification is most easily measured as a percentage of
total fish and other organisms in trade that are MAC certified. After at
least five years and several million dollars expended, the percentage of
certified product is much less than 1% of total trade. (For example, see
Appendices in the 2006 MAC Annual Report
(www.aquariumcouncil.org/annualreport.html) Of the hundreds of US retail
shops, only four are certified and none consistently offers MAC certified
organisms. www.aquariumcouncil.org/ciolist.html?q=D

The assumption was that MAC certification would result in higher quality
organisms. Unfortunately, MAC certified organisms have often been lower
quality than non-certified. 

The original business plan was based on the premise that companies which
trade in aquarium organisms would support the program financially by
providing a small percentage of their profits to MAC. This has never

To be fair, no certification program has been achieved quickly and cheaply.
The MAC certification experiment was an idealistic plan that we supported
because it was worth trying and held out the promise of leverage for
conservation. In fact this was the one aspect that worked well. It has
produced some positive ecological benefits that will last. But the
experiment has not transformed a significant fraction of the trade. Once
most senior staff resigned from MAC last year and the organization was
turned over to an accountant, we reluctantly accepted that the experiment
had failed, and was one that we could no longer support.

Gregor Hodgson, PhD
Executive Director, Reef Check Foundation
P.O. Box 1057 (mail)
17575 Pacific Coast Highway (Fedex)
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272-1057
Tel: +1-310-230-2371 Fax: +1-310-230-2376
email: gregorh at reefcheck.org
Please sign the International Declaration of Reef Rights!
-----Original Message-----
From: Don Baker [mailto:reefpeace at yahoo.com] 
Sent: Thursday, February 21, 2008 6:51 PM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] MAC a Failure?

MAC - a Failure?   Please explain this anyone?


As of January 1, 2008 Reef Check has reluctantly withdrawn support from
Marine Aquarium Council's certification program due to its failure,
we continue to believe that many elements of the program can be
applied to management of the marine aquarium trade, and we continue to
with the trade to try to encourage this use.

Alternate Email: donbjr95 at hotmail.com

"Dedication and motivated direction in achieving specific goals related to
the care and protection of living things is not necessarily a guaranteed
formula for success.  Success is, more often than not, a direct result of a
person's passion in addition to the above formula." [Don Baker, Marine
Conservationist/Activist, 1998]
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