Aquarium products in the Pacific Islands: a review of the fisheries, management and trade – Robert Gillett, Mike A. McCoy, Ian Bertram, Jeff Kinch, Aymeric Desurmont and Andrew Halford
- This report is an overview of the fisheries, management and trade of aquarium products in the Pacific Island region.
- The study involved visits to Pacific Island countries and territories where the trade is active or has been active in the recent past. Those visits resulted in the preparation of national aquarium trade profiles, which are given in Appendix 2 of this report.
- Data in the profiles are compiled, compared and combined with information from the literature and from aquarium specialists to portray the aquarium trade in the region and to explore topics of special interest.
Aquarium companies and employment
In late 2019 there were 34 companies exporting aquarium products in the region. Most of them were quite small, especially in Kiribati (which had the most, 13). About 257 people (full-time equivalent) were directly employed by these 34 companies.
The three countries employing the most people were Kiribati (90 people), Fiji (60) and Tonga (55). During the past few years, several aquarium companies in the region failed. Reasons for failure include a shock to the world economy, a natural disaster at the location of company activities, death or retirement of the company owner, negative changes to the air freight situation, bans on the export of live rock, denial of export permit due to non-payment of back taxes, general lack of profitability, and national business condition issues, not fishery issues.
The export of aquarium products
- Aquarium export data are inadequate in most places surveyed. Consequently, many of the national estimates of annual exports in this report are semi-educated guesses.
- The recent annual free-on-board value of the aquarium trade in the region can be crudely estimated to be about USD 7.4 million. Due to the poor data used to make this estimate, this amount should be treated with caution.
- Nine countries in the region are active in the aquarium trade. • Fiji, with its two aquarium companies, is responsible for almost half the value of exports from the region.
- The value of annual aquarium exports in 2018 were only about one-third that estimated by an SPC study in 2008.
Prices for aquarium products
- The present survey was able to obtain good price data for only one fishery: aquarium fish at Christmas Island in Kiribati.
- Domestic prices for particular species are determined by the global supply and demand, rather than by the rarity of that species in the country of origin.
- Important determinants of the cost structure of producing aquarium products are air freight charges, divers’ pay, electricity and holding/packing expenses.
Aquaculture of aquarium products
- Seven countries have been involved in culturing products for the aquarium trade in recent years.
- Coral and tridacna are the aquarium items cultured by the most countries.
- The aquarium products of two countries in the region, Palau and Federated States of Micronesia, are exclusively from aquaculture operations.
An important aspect of the aquarium trade is compliance with the requirements of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In practice, the aquarium products in this region covered by CITES are largely tridacna, hard corals, and a few fish species. One of the major CITES issues for the aquarium trade is the degree to which fisheries departments and environment departments work together smoothly to facilitate exports of CITES items.
Management of aquarium fisheries
The main management measures are given for each country in the study.
- Tonga, Marshall Islands, and Vanuatu have by far the most detailed management arrangements for the aquarium fisheries. Today (as well as ten years ago) Tonga and Vanuatu are the only two countries in the region that have formal aquarium fishery management plans.
- A surprisingly large number of countries have aquarium fishery management plans that remain as drafts. Several have been in draft form for over five years.
- Aquarium management plans are recommended and should include limitations of licenses and permits issued for operators and collectors within given areas.
International market for aquarium products
- The United States is by far the largest market for aquarium products, with about 69% of global aquarium fish imports.
- In terms of supplying the US market, approximately 40 countries export aquarium fish to the marine aquarium trade in the country, with the Philippines and Indonesia accounting for 86.6% of the imports.
- In terms of price trends in the international market, there appears to be a lack of significant increase in real prices in the past decade.
- Because about 50% of the landed cost of aquarium products is airfreight, prices obtained by PICTs suppliers are sensitive to changes that affect airlines.
Competitive advantages of products from the Pacific Islands region
The advantages of the Pacific Islands in the aquarium trade are that the region:
- is known for being drug free; generally there is no association with chemical collection in the Pacific Islands;
- has a relatively short supply chain;
- has a reputation for high quality, low mortality and good availability;
- has several well-known “flagship” producers that elevate the awareness of the region and its associated high quality;
- has several rare species that command high prices; and
- has a cost advantage over Australia.
Fishery agency facilitation of the aquarium trade
There are several types of actions that a government fishery agency could do to facilitate the aquarium trade. The most important is providing well-oiled government services. This would include efficiently issuing export permits, dealing expeditiously with important issues as they arise, having reasonable charges, and working closely with the environment agency on CITES issues.
The main recommendations of the study deal with the following aspects.
- Well-oiled government services In countries that wish to promote the aquarium products trade, it is recommended that the government fishery agency take steps to improve the services required by aquarium companies.
- Aquarium fishery management plans Countries that have active aquarium fisheries should have good aquarium fisheries management plans and the means to implement them.
- Aquarium product export data Government fisheries agency staff should scrutinise the volume and value of fishery exports in the official customs department data for erroneous information and omissions, and closely collaborate with customs to identify the causes of any errors and take mitigation measures.
- National aquarium fishery associations It is recommended that aquarium companies form national associations to be able to speak with a unified voice to the fishery agency and other government entities.
- Future studies of the aquarium trade It is recommended that future aquarium product studies in the region closely scrutinise past studies, determine the most appropriate metrics, and use terms that allow comparisons.
Aquarium products in the Pacific Islands: a review of the fisheries, management and trade
Robert Gillett, Mike A. McCoy, Ian Bertram, Jeff Kinch, Aymeric Desurmont and Andrew Halford
- Ornamental fish trade – Oceania.
- Aquarium fish collecting – Oceania.
- Aquarium fishes – Oceania.
- Aquarium fishes – Management – Oceania.
- Fishery – Management – Oceania.
- Fishery – Marketing – Oceania.
I. Gillett, Robert II. McCoy, Mike A. III. Bertram, Ian IV. Kinch, Jeff V. Desurmont, Aymeric VI. Halford, Andrew
VII. Title VIII. Pacific Community