[Coral-List] Understanding the other "half" and problems in the field

clearinghouse at terangi.or.id clearinghouse at terangi.or.id
Wed Mar 5 00:47:20 EST 2008

I've been following the discussions on aquacultured corals which lead to a
question whether we should ban marine aquarium trade or not.I feel the
discussion is quite one sided, where the other "half" is not quite
represented.I'm not trying to defend them, just trying to provide little
information to balance the discussion.

For most of the commentator in this list, marine aquarium trade is just an
unsustainable hobby, but on the contrary it is a livelihood which a lot of
small fishermen depending on. These people use small vessels and simple
tool to collect marine organisms. In areas where available jobs are
scarce, the collection become their only hope to survive. And please be
fair to judge them. In previous posts on the debate of hybrid cars, some
argues that it is a good alternative when public transportation isn't
available even though they're still contribute to carbon emission. If the
arguments works for hybrid cars why it shouldn't for marine aquarium
trade? By the way, who started this trade anyway? is it the small

On the other hand, support by scientists are quite limited if we compare
with the rate of the trade and species involved. Besides, access to these
research is very difficult especially to those in developing countries,
thus making sensible management nearly impossible. Uncertainty also arise
if we add the limited knowledge that we have on coral reefs ecosystem and
the impact of aquarium trade.

Some people think that a lot of money have been put to MAC for making
marine aquarium trade sustainable. But i hope contribution is not only
comes in $$$$$ and not only to MAC. Since various type of support is
needed for making the trade sustainable. MAC failure is not entirely their
fault. Since we have limited knowledge and experience, is it fair to judge
that it is a failure anyway?

True that we have difficulties in implementing MAC standards. Gregor
Hodgson have mentioned some of the constrain of the standards in the
previous post, so i won't repeat them. What i want to emphasys is why
these standards "failed" is because of the supporting system for this
standard to work is not well established.

As an example, based on our experience, the MAQTRAC protocol developed by
Reefcheck is difficult to implement since it requires a lot of resource
hence making large scale monitoring program cost a fortune! The use of TAC
(Total Allowable Catch) as a reference point is also a subject of on going
debate up until now. So it is very difficult for implemention.

Other thing that make MAC voluntary approach "failed" (i believe it's not
a total failure anyway) is because it is voluntary! People should realize
that they can't only volunteer to save reefs, they should actively
participate. What i mean by they includes bussiness owners, govt,
fishermen, hobbyist, etc. This "failure" shows that people are reluctant
to change their life style, the problem that is related to global climate

So in order for MAC standards to work, we have to work hard on preparing
the supporting system! Eventhough it's not fulfilling the standards that
we're after but the ecosystem sustainability itself.

In the previous post, Don Baker ask us if its a 'no go' - 'no way'. I
don't know if there is a "go", but i believe that there is a "way". We are
compiling a lesson learned from our previous implementation of MAC
standards in Seribu Islands, Indonesia. We will try to share what works
and what doesn't in the upcoming ICRS.

I'm sure there are people with further knowledge and experience far better
than i am in this list. I'm looking forward for your inputs and
contributions on this topic since i still have a lot to learn.

Safran Yusri
Coral Reefs Clearing-House/Science Program Manager
The Indonesian Coral Reefs Foundation (Yayasan TERANGI)

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