According to a study out of Roger Williams University, marine ornamental fish imported into the United States are often misreported as they come in. Scientists examined one year’s worth of import records of marine species coming into the U.S. The scientists compared commercial invoices with government forms to form the basis of the study. The study states that more than 11 million fish from 40 countries came into the United States, with much of that total misrepresented as marine fish when in fact they were freshwater and marine invertebrates.
The study also found that more than 50 percent of government forms that are required to be filled out during the importation process had various improprieties on them; there were species and numerical discrepancies, which the scientists say resulted in a “27 percent overestimation of trade volumes.”
Lead author Andrew Rhyne, assistant professor of marine biology at Roger Williams University and research scientist at the New England Aquarium, said that there is ” a delicate balance between the global demand for aquarium fish, and its environmental and economic impacts.” He says that we need to accurately monitor the aquarium fish trade in order to understand how the trade impacts the oceans and the global economy.
“Coral reefs globally are already under tremendous stress from climate change, habitat destruction and pollution,” said co-author Michael Tlusty, director of research at the New England Aquarium. “Poor harvest practices of tropical fish for the home aquarium trade can add to that decline, yet when done right, it can help counter those effects provided the economic benefits of long-term sustainability are met locally. Small-scale fisheries can provide a framework on which to develop better overall management schemes to protect the reefs.”
The study was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration’s (NOAA) Coral Reef Conservation Program. Scientists with Roger Williams University, Boston University, Conservation International, the New England Aquarium, U.S. Geological Survey, NOAA and the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation conducted the study, which was published in the Public Library of Science (PLoS).