The story of SEASMART and Papua New Guinea’s ornamental aquarium trade has been bittersweet. Best known for collecting the Lightning Maroon Clownfish in early 2010 and a scientifically-based strict sustainable collections model, the SEASMART Program was the headliner at the 2010 MACNA convention. During SEASMART’s MACNA attendence, the PNG government officially pulled the rug out from underneath the program, severing funding for the SEASMART program.
Of course, we only learned of this come January 2011, when lawsuits were filed — perhaps symbolic that efforts to reconcile peacefully had failed. Both sides were perhaps optimistic for a quick and decisive victory, but pragmatically we all knew that most likely wasn’t going to happen. With the PNG government pledging to have the marine aquarium trade back up and running within six month’s time, we’ve seen and heard nothing. By the same token, we’ve not heard anything either from SEASMART until today.
While it’s not exactly a tell all, CORAL Magazine had Ret Talbot sit down with EcoEZ’s David Vosseler to discuss the current status of the SEASMART Program in Papua New Guinea. In the interview, Vosseler goes into detail about the past and current status of things where he can, and certainly points the finger at select PNG government officials who were responsible for the breaking of contractual agreements.
If you’re hoping for good news or some dramatic announcement, this isn’t it. Instead, this story illustrates the harsh realities and complexities that face an emerging industry in a third world country. Perhaps most disappointing are the aquarium fishers who were put out of work, and the implication that truely sustainable collection as David Vosseler and SEASMART see it, may be an unobtainable goal when politics get in the way.
We invite our readers to take in the extensive interview with SEASMART’s David Vosseler on CORAL Magazine’s website.