Author: Richard S. LeGore, Ph.D.
Institution: LeGore Environmental Associates Inc.
In recent years the collection of tropical marine organisms for the aquarium trade has been perceived as an activity with an unsustainable history as well as obvious potential for rehabilitation through resource-based fisheries management and consumer-oriented product certification. In the case of Puerto Rico, collection of ornamentals has occurred for decades, though unregulated due to a weak fisheries law dating from the 1930s. The more recent Fisheries Law 278 of 1998 and the recent Coral Conservation Law of 2000 enabled new regulatory approaches for marine ornamentals, but initial resource management agency attempts toward regulation encountered serious challenges rooted in (1) an information gap concerning the fishery, extending even to the numbers of collectors, their collection methods and export volumes, and (2) the absence of prior communication between agency regulators and fishers.
The information gap led to worst-case assumptions of impact by regulators, and a closure of the fishery, setting the stage for threatening personal confrontations and lawsuits, the latter leading to de facto resource management by judicial order. To redress these issues and return fishery management to the arena of science and public policy, regulators initiated a three-phase program to (1) characterize fisher numbers, methods, and exports; (2) assess populations of exploited species; and (3) develop and propose appropriate fishery management approaches for subsequent application.
References & more
- Full report
- LeGore R.S., Hardin M.P., Ter-Ghazaryan D. (2005) Organization and operation of the marine ornamental fish and invertebrate export fishery in Puerto Rico. Revista de Biologia Tropical 53(1)
- Matos-Caraballo D., Mercado-Porrata A. (2008) Description of the ornamental fishery in Puerto Rico, 1997-2005. Proceedings of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute 60: 97-107