Marine fauna exploitation .Part V

Jaime Baquero bd268 at
Thu Aug 3 11:20:35 EDT 1995


Most of the marine ornamental fish exporters in the area of Manila, and 
possibly in the whole Philippines, are having significant difficulty in 
keeping their business going. The main reason is the high mortality rate 
of their exported fish, and consequently the customer dissatisfaction 

This problem is due not only to the fact that some are still cyanide 
caught, but also because of the poor handling techniques that fisherfolks 
and exporters are practicing, added to the fact that the fish are held for 
prolonged periods of time in conditions that are of considerable danger such 

* Acute exposure to ammonia 
* Low values of pH 
* Sudden increase of pH 
* High values of nitrates and phosphates 
* Drastic temperature changes 
* Oxygen depletion 
* Prolonged exposure to Copper ( as treatment) and ( possilbly) to other 
 heavy metals present in marine epoxies, used in the construction of holding 

In plastic bags or in a recirculating water system the ammonia which fish  
excrete becomes a crucial factor in water quality. The molecular form of 
Ammonia, NH3, is highly toxic, while the ionic form, NH4+, is only slightly 
toxic. Depending on the pH value of the water, when low, much of the ammonia 
may become ionized and prevent major problems of toxicity. There is a serious 
problem when the pH increases suddenly due to abrupt water changes. These 
concepts have to be analized in the context of osmoregulation. 

All these factors are without doubt responsible for irreparable physiological 
damage that the fish suffer, and they must be considered as responsible for 
unnecessary mortality WHICH IS EVIDENT ONLY LATER. Fish under stress, even at 
a fairly early stage of responding, may show decreased resistance to disease. 

The filtration systems at exporters facilities are not well designed, they are 
not equipped with the proper filter media(e.g activated charcoal) or with  
other devices (protein skimmers) to handled the metabolic products of a heavy 
biological load. These are the reasons for frequent wipeouts at exporters 
holding facilities. The water quality criteria, as a must to anyone who is 
concerned with health of fish, are not applied either at the exporters nor 
the fisherfolk level.  

The workshops about water quality and filtration systems did provide to mem- 
bers of the Federation and the Haribon team, with the necessary tools to set 
up better and efficient holding facilities to develop their exporting busi- 

The Federation of Fish Collectors of the Philippines are working hard to 
accomplish their main goals: 

-To assure the supply of net-caught fish; 
-To teach the application of Water Quality Criteria(water management) to the 
 collectors and the operators of their holding facilities in Manila; and 
-To revise and modify their handling techniques and holding facilities. 

By implementing the above "factors" the Federation will gain the credibility 
and support of marine fish buyers because it will succeed in lowering mortali- 
ty rates (getting customers' satisfaction). This in turn will lead to the 
Federation's goals of achieving a self-sufficient livelihood for the fisher- 
folk. Of course coral reefs in this area will be a big winners also. 


Support and cooperation are a must to everyone involved in this trade 
(collectors, exporters, importers, reatailers and aquarium hobbyists) and 
avoiding conflicts which only slow down the process of change.  

The aquarium fish trade is one of many ( and not necessarily the largest) 
factors or agents impacting on coral reef ecosystems. Nevertheless, the 
aquarium industry is not any less responsible for what it has done and 
should not therefore discount its obligation to become environmentally 
friendly. In fact, we believe it is in its short-term and long-term interests 
to do so. This requirement extends to the collection of wild corals,reef fish 
"live rock" and marine invertebrates. Ocean Voice International is clearly 
taking an active role in finding practical solutions and in reconciling con- 
flicts between the aquarium trade and marine conservation needs. 

Thanks for your time. 

Your comments will be appreciated. 

Jaime Baquero 
Marine Biologist 

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