Asian reef fish numbers in decline

Consumer appetites for live reef fish across south-east Asia — and increasingly in China — is devastating populations of grouper and other fish in the Coral Triangle, the New York Times reported, citing the scientific journal Conservation Biology. Spawning of reef fish in the region has dropped by 79% over the past five to 20 years, depending on location.


The protected marine region, home to the world’s richest ocean diversity, supports three-quarters of all known coral species. Six countries share the triangle’s seas: Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and East Timor.


Overfishing — particularly of “spawning aggregations” that occur when fish gather in one place in great numbers to reproduce — may be responsible, according to Yvonne Sadovy, a biologist at the University of Hong Kong. She wrote the report, along with scientists from Australia, Hong Kong, Palau and the United States. The report’s conclusions were based on the first global database on the occurrence, history and management of spawning aggregations, Sadovy said.


Since the 1980s, Hong Kong has been the epicentre of the live-fish trade since the 1980s. The trade has expanded greatly in the last decade to a US$810-million business, according to the environmental organisation WWF. Rising wealth on the Chinese mainland may be a contributing factor. Demand for exotic fish is high in Shanghai and Beijing, as well as in destinations popular with Chinese tourists.


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