How our Appetite for Eating Fish is Stripping Coral Reefs

28 January 2007
Posted by Chris Smith.

This week, I published a paper based on research I did for my PhD, which looked at the growing trend for eating fish that have been collected from coral reefs all around the world and are flown to major Asian cities and cooked alive in luxury restaurants selling for extremely high prices. I found out for the first time just how devastating this trade can be, including for beautiful big fish like the Napoleon wrasse and large groupers - the sort of fish that scuba divers love to see when they visit coral reefs. By scrutinising the records kept by fish traders in Borneo, I discovered that within less than ten years the number of fish being caught by each fisherman had plummeted - a likely consequence of wild stocks being depleted. It is highly likely that these patterns of drastic overexploitation are being played out time and again in every country that hosts the trade in live reef fish. But, I hold out hope that it is not all doom and gloom and that we can improve the situation by increasing awareness among the consumers about where the fish they are eating came from, and by encouraging countries to cooperate and try to make sure the numbers of fish being traded do not exceed levels that the reefs can sustainably provide.

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