MASNA Aquaculture & Conservation Position Statement

Aquaculture is the fastest growing sector of food production on the planet, with a reach that extends to nearly every country on the globe. Its products provide a reliable source of protein to a vast number of homes, support the livelihoods of tens of millions worldwide, and generate advancements in the way we produce our medicine, pharmaceutical products, and energy. Looking to the future, aquaculture is expected to play an increasingly important role amidst a growing human population, wild fisheries that have reached or are close to reaching maximum capacity, pollution, and climate change.

In recent decades, marine ornamental aquaculture has paralleled advances in our understanding of aquaculture as a whole, fueled largely by emerging technologies developed by the collective community of scientists, industry leaders, and hobbyists that MASNA supports. What once consisted of a dispersed group of hobbyists housing bleached coral skeletons as decoration in fish-only systems, the marine aquarium industry has blossomed to support a diverse group of hobbyists successfully housing a broad array of marine species from diminutive fishes to reef-building corals. As of 2018, 358 species of marine ornamental fishes have been successfully raised in aquaria, and 28 have been added in the last year. This group is mainly comprised of gobies, blennies, and damsels – all species that lay clutches of eggs on the substrate, where they develop and hatch into large, relatively well-developed larvae.

Conversely, species that rely on pelagic spawning like wrasses, tangs, and anthias release smaller eggs directly into the water column, which quickly hatch into small, underdeveloped larvae that immediately require live foods to survive. Given the difficult nature of successfully raising these larvae in captivity, this group of species has received less attention. However, dedicated efforts to advance our knowledge in live feeds production and larval nutrition have made major strides in our ability to culture and provide larval fishes with quality live food items at the commercial scale. Scientists and aquaculturists continue to hone their production methods for copepods, ciliates, and other small prey items that will undoubtedly add to the list of successfully cultured marine ornamental species moving forward. These advances have contributed to several success stories in the past few years. Among them are the yellow tang, Pacific blue tang, melanurus wrasse, Cuban hogfish, borbonius anthias, several species of angelfish, and a handful of butterflyfish.

As the marine ornamental industry progresses, it is important to recognize these achievements, what they represent, and encourage the continued development of marine ornamental aquaculture as we grow as a community. From a conservation perspective, success in captive breeding reduces fishing pressures on wild populations, promotes sustainable and ethical reef- keeping, and ultimately ensures the preservation of the marine aquarium hobby for future generations. This is especially important for species that have limited wild ranges like the banggai cardinalfish, those that are already facing the threat of overcollection, and those that are harvested using destructive fishing practices like cyanide application. From an industry perspective, developing these technologies can reduce the cost of providing quality animals to hobbyists, ensure a constant supply of fishes to meet growing market demand, and have the potential to encourage the growth of the marine aquarium industry. From the perspective of the hobbyist, advances in ornamental aquaculture provide a steady supply of healthier, parasite free fishes that are adapted to life in the home aquarium.

MASNA stands behind the collective efforts of scientists, industry leaders, conservationists, and hobbyists that are instrumental in driving the success of marine ornamental aquaculture. In our celebration of aquaculture for MACNA 2019, we would like to call to action all researchers and practitioners of aquaculture in a concerted effort to close the life cycle of additional species of marine ornamental fishes, particularly those that are popular within the aquarium trade. These include the tangs, wrasses, and anthias, among many others. We firmly believe that if we act together, the marine aquarium industry will continue to grow and exist in perpetuity. This year, join us as we celebrate the many dedicated scientists, hobbyists, and industry leaders in their commitment to furthering ornamental aquaculture.

BY Tim Lyons, M.Sc., MASNA Director of Conservation for MACNA 2019

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.