It’s been less than a week since the Fiji Ministry of Fisheries & Forests abruptly announced an immediate and complete ban on all live coral and live rock exports from the small island nation. The immediate result has been the loss of employment by three quarters of the staff at Walt Smith International, surely not a great way to start the new year for the families who depend on that income.
Fiji was one of the first regions of the world to supply high quality SPS corals to the aquarium trade and over the last twenty years this country has become synonymous with sustainability through farmed corals and man-made rock. It’s very important for all nations to manage their ecosystems and resources but halting a decades old industry so suddenly is rash and in this case, doesn’t seemed to be supported by data or legitimate concerns of over harvesting of corals or rock.
Stringent quotas for live rock exports and CITES permits for live corals have been in place to safeguard the environment from overexploitation. To compliment this Walt Smith has developed numerous artificial rock-building projects using local labor, as well as coral farming racks to aquaculture corals which have been extensively documented over the years.
It’s one thing to announce a future closure of a fishery of any kind, but the proper thing to do is to phase it out and give stakeholders the chance to redirect their energy. This would allow wild harvesting to support aquaculture and artificial rock making efforts until such a time that it can completely replace the supplant wild stock. We sincerely hope that the Ministry of Fisheries can walk back this sudden hard line stance of wild collection and offer a proposal that doesn’t jeopardize the livelihood of so many people without notice. [Walt Smith]