Position Statements

Position Statement on Sustainable Marine Aquarium Fisheries

The Marine Aquarium Societies of North America (MASNA) represents a community of aquarium organizations and thousands of individual aquarists passionate about marine animals and saltwater aquarium keeping. MASNA believes a robust and sustainable marine aquarium trade based on a combination of aquaculture, mariculture and wild collection from sustainable marine aquarium fisheries can be a positive force for reef conservation, education and socioeconomic benefit both at home and abroad. MASNA promotes the understanding that a sustainable marine aquarium fishery can be managed in much the same way a sustainable food fishery is managed, using science-based adaptive management and supply chain transparency in order to demonstrate sustainability.

MASNA understands the myriad threats to the reef ecosystems after which aquarists frequently model their aquaria, including, but not limited to pollution, development, tourism, global climate change, ocean acidification, and various fisheries activities. While the global impacts of marine aquarium fisheries are comparatively less than most of these other stressors, for example, the annual bycatch from food fisheries is much larger than the entire global harvest for the marine aquarium trade, MASNA believes actively promoting sustainable marine aquarium fisheries is in the best interest of the aquarium trade, the ecosystems and the fishers on which the trade depends.

MASNA seeks to mitigate the aquarium trade’s impact and promote positive environmental and socioeconomic outcomes by endorsing sustainability. Owing to the reproductive biology of many popular marine aquarium animals, a well-managed marine aquarium fishery, like a well-managed food fishery, may be fished sustainably over time without compromising the population as a whole. Based on these facts, MASNA actively supports science-based fisheries management through its education and outreach efforts. MASNA strongly urges that all marine aquarium fisheries seek out scientific advice where and when available, and if not available, to seek assistance to make scientific advice available. Further, MASNA supports fishers and fisheries managers who adopt precautionary, long-term adaptive management plans resulting from a multi-stakeholder process in which all sides work collaboratively toward long-term ecosystem-based sustainability.

Access to sustainably collected marine aquarium animals is essential to the trade given that more than 90 percent of the species commonly kept in aquaria have not yet been bred successfully in captivity. Even in an aquarium trade where many more animals can be bred in captivity, access to sustainably collected aquarium animals from well-managed marine aquarium fisheries will be necessary for the purposes of acquiring broodstock essential to aquaculture and species survival programs. Beyond providing broodstock, MASNA believes supporting sustainable aquarium fisheries, especially in developing island nations, provides real economic incentive to conserve reef ecosystems and employ sustainable fisheries management tools. The marine aquarium trade is also uniquely poised to foster environmentally responsible socio-economic development in remote coastal fishing villages just entering global markets.

In summary, MASNA believes all fisheries, aquarium and otherwise, can be managed sustainably. Along with supporting aquaculture and mariculture activities, MASNA also supports well-managed, sustainable wild marine aquarium fisheries because a robust marine aquarium trade plays a vital role in conservation, education, economic growth, and research.

APPROVED BY THE MASNA BOARD FEB. 2012