Empowering Sustainable Marine Aquarium Fisheries in Indonesia

2023-10-22 02:20 PM By Paul

by Johnny Ford, Senior Director of Public Relations at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago

A glimpse into the John G. Shedd Aquarium's award-winning "Wild Reef" Exhibit. Photo courtesy of Shedd Aquarium.
The Coral Reef Aquarium Fisheries Campaign and several partner organizations have been awarded a 3-year grant in the amount of $700,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to investigate more transparent means of supporting fishing communities who sustainably supply public aquaria and zoos with fishes from abundant sources in Indonesia for lifelong care in these institutions. The Campaign will work with the John G. Shedd Aquarium, Indonesian-based fisheries conservation NGOs LINI and Rare, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to create a roadmap that accredited public aquaria and zoos can replicate and scale that prioritizes ecological conservation, ensures wellbeing for animals and people alike and follows rigorous and informed governance. This research is one of several ways that the public aquarium community is advancing a shared goal of sustainability for aquatic animal populations in human care for future generations.

We Call This Program:

In the Indonesian marine aquarium fishery, women often play important roles in managing family or business records and finances. Here, a woman records fish purchased from multiple fishers by middlemen. IndoReefFish will deliver training programs to women participating in the value chain by teaching best practices in recordkeeping and business finance. Photo courtesy of LINI.

Many aquaria and zoos rely on fishing communities to maintain healthy, genetically diverse populations of aquatic fish and invertebrates in human care. This grant funding will allow the aquarium community to work with suppliers to further improve supply chains while continuing to sustain coastal communities around the globe that rely on fishing as a means of livelihood and way of life. By working directly with governments and local leaders in fishing communities, aquariums can contribute to sustainable, small-scale and co-managed coastal fisheries that promote climate, social and economic resilience.

IndoReefFish will deliver training programs to Indonesian marine aquarium fishers; teaching best practices in capture techniques, transport, aquarium husbandry, records management, and household finance. Photo courtesy of Rare.

“Accredited aquariums and zoos have long sought out and worked with suppliers who can guarantee that we do not contribute to the problems we are trying to solve for wild aquatic populations,” said Peggy Sloan, Chief Animal Conservation Officer at Shedd Aquarium. “Support from IMLS will amplify the thoughtful trainings and collaboration with local fisheries that are already happening to center animal wellbeing and ecological preservation.”

An Indonesian fisher shows off the catch from his last excursion underwater. IndoReefFish will empower fishers to select fish species to catch that are resilient to fishing pressure, and that offer promising returns for their livelihoods. Photo courtesy of LINI.

Grant funding from IMLS will accelerate existing work to move fishers from a volume-driven approach to one that is focused on value – sharing and applying the best husbandry, management and care techniques across the supply chain. At the same time, partners will use data to determine what species are prolific and resilient to overfishing (ideal candidates for fishing), curbing demand away from species that are more vulnerable or threatened.

We look forward to bringing you updates from us and our partners on IndoReefFish as we make progress in this ambitious program.  Stay tuned!