The vessels of Dynasty Marine Associates head out for a day of 

collection in the Florida Keys.  Photo by Dynasty Marine Associates, LLC

The Coral Reef Aquarium Fisheries Campaign assesses legal, policy and regulatory frameworks of coral reef aquarium fish fisheries in source locales.  We describe and assess:

·  A survey of the current policy framework, based on literature review and interviews

·  A survey of fishery agency resources available and needed to manage and enforce the fishery and its policy framework

·  The effects of current policy on the population sustainability of select indigenous coral reef aquarium fish species, based on population monitoring data

·  The perceived effects, both positive and negative, of current policy on the livelihoods of value chain actors (fishers and traders) and their businesses, and expressed desired changes to current policy, based on surveys and interviews of coral reef aquarium actors

· A critical comparative analysis of the policy against policy models in other source locales, with recommendations for national and local sustainable management

IndoReefFish partners present the state of Indonesia's marine aquarium fishery, trade, and the IndoReefFish program to stakeholders at the headquarters of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries in Jakarta (March 2023).


The Campaign is proud to partner with the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago (IL) and consequential partners in Indonesia - fishers, traders, NGOs, and fisheries agencies - 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. With support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Indonesian fisheries NGOs LINI and rare have introduced The Campaign to Indonesia's national fisheries agency--the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries--and provincial and district fisheries agencies to elevate awareness of and need for marine aquarium fisheries management in the nation; and to chart a course ahead.  This 3-year capacity-building program for Indonesia's marine aquarium fishery has been introduced to Indonesian colleagues in the Spring of 2023.  You can learn more in our blog, "Word on the Reef."  Sign up below to stay updated on this important work!

Dynasty Marine transports their catch of the day individually in ventilated containers inside an aerated live well to minimize fish aggression and optimize welfare during transport. Photo by Dynasty Marine

Florida Marine Life Policy Analysis

The Coral Reef Aquarium Fisheries Campaign performed an assessment of Florida’s marine life policy landscape and the current state of Florida’s commercial marine aquarium fishery to inform and guide stakeholders about 1) management strategies for the fishery moving forward; and 2) to highlight successful policy measures in place in Florida that merit consideration for adoption in other source locales around the world.  The study discovered that the State has a strong regulatory structure for the commercial fishery operated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; practicing co-management with fishers, and utilizing license and permitting requirements, conventional fisheries management measures and technical actions to regulate fishing mortality, and rights-based management approaches.  Additionally, both fisheries-independent and dependent surveys have been conducted in recent years to assess the fishery.  Consequently, the vast majority of fish species collected commercially for the trade indicate stable or increasing densities or catch per unit effort in Florida waters over 10+ years.  Moving forward, the fishery can benefit from an assessment of the economic impacts of the policy on its fishers, a statewide fisheries management plan specific for the fishery, the further development of a comprehensive program for fisheries data collection and analysis to address data gaps, an assessment of resources at hand and those needed to implement these recommendations, and the elevation of marine aquarium fisheries at the national level to support state-level management.  Read our article in the peer-reviewed journal Marine Policy.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species

CITES  is an international agreement between governments, whose aim is to ensure that international trade in wildlife does not threaten species survival. At the 18th Conference of Parties in 2019, Switzerland, the European Union, and the U.S. recommended examination of the conservation implications of the global marine aquarium fish trade. In March 2021, CITES hired the United Nations Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre to assess the biology, conservation status, trade, management, regulation, and enforcement of marine aquarium fish species in the trade.  You can read their report here.

Species 360

Species360 mobilizes a network of over 1,200 aquarium, zoo, university, research and governmental members around the world to improve animal welfare and species conservation. Together, Species360 members curate the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS), the world’s most comprehensive database of knowledge on more than 22,000 species. ZIMS generates new knowledge about thousands of species, and identifies sustainability strategies for species that are vulnerable, endangered, and extinct in the wild.  In 2022, Species 360's Conservation Science Alliance engaged The Coral Reef Aquarium Fisheries Campaign to offer an alternative, data-driven framework to prioritize marine aquarium fish species for study to offer to the CITES community at the 19th Conference of Parties.  

Decision Tree
*Challender et al. (2023). **Based on four additional risk factors: 1) endemism (IUCN Red List and GBIF), 2) habitat degradation, fragmentation, or conversion (IUCN Red List), 3) decreasing population trend (IUCN Red List), and 4) alternative uses as human food, sport fishing or traditional medicine (FAO, IUCN Red List, and FishBase)

With guidance from the Campaign and other subject matter experts, Species 360 developed this decision tree to prioritize species for assessment of their risks in the international marine aquarium fish trade.  The framework incorporates input from several curated databases that provide species-specific information and incorporates existing decision frameworks of CITES and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The research prioritization is guided by four key factors: trade volumes, prior assessments of trade as threat, IUCN Red List status, and additional risks**.

The report found 2,662 non-CITES listed species encompassing 135 families in the trade, underlining its diversity and scope. Species assigned to categories A (255) and B (186) are considered the highest research priority, while assessing categories C-E may be less urgent though still necessary.

This work led to several recommendations:

  • Improving reporting of trade volumes 
  • Investigating mortality of animals in the supply chain 
  • Conducting further threat analysis for species in research priorities A and B 
  • Developing standardized assessment templates for the evaluation of trade sustainability for this group 
  • Connecting and integrating data sources 
  • Investigating the feasibility of captive breeding 
  • Considering alternative conservation and fishery management measures

    Species 360 has presented this decision tree to the CITES community to encourage discussions to develop a collaborative and robust prioritization framework for fish species fished for the marine aquarium trade.