The Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association in the UK has recently launched a new report looking at the positive benefits of wild caught ornamental fish. The UK trade voice has long argued that fish caught in the wild from reefs, rivers and Rift Valley lakes can offer much-needed opportunities in remote parts of the world for people to earn a sustainable living from their local environment. The report looks at where live fish are caught across the world, how they travel to the UK and the regulations that govern each part of that journey. It also examines the alternative livelihoods that might be open to fisher communities if they could no longer provide live fish for the aquarium trade.
The report – entitled Wild caught ornamental fish: the trade, the benefits, the facts – draws on information contained in a specially commissioned literature review by the University of Kent’s Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) as well as other information compiled by the trade association.
OATA asked the highly-respected Institute to investigate the positive benefits of wild caught ornamental fish last year. Dr David Roberts and Ian Watson from DICE, which is part of the School of Anthropology and Conservation at the University, undertook a literature search for relevant research and associated papers from governments and NGOs that demonstrated the economic, social and environmental benefits that wild taken fish can bring to indigenous communities. DICE also presented two case studies to illustrate the human story behind the trade, with help from LINI in Indonesia and FundAmazonia in Peru.
The report shows that live ornamental fish represent a very tiny percentage of the total number of fish caught from across the globe. Many countries which supply live ornamental fish are on the UN’s low human development and least developed countries’ lists as well as many which hold Small Island Developing States status. Catching live fish for aquariums can provide people with a better income because they are worth more by weight than if supplied for eating. And it offers a good incentive to conserve the local environment by providing people with a sustainable livelihood - they can catch fewer fish but make more money.
With the growing interest in exotic pets - and powerful campaign groups lobbying for positive lists or even bans on the keeping of these animals, particularly if caught in the wild - the report is an attempt to show hobbyists, the industry and politicians another side in this debate.