Grouper Theory

27 Mar 2007

Overfishing endangers rare coral fish species in Pacific.

As China’s economy booms, so demand for coral fish such as groupers, snappers and humphead wrasse is increasing. So much so that some species are already endangered.Restaurants in Hong Kong, for example, serve exotic fish from all round Southeast Asia, Australia and the Pacific islands.

Fish stocks are already exhausted in the waters off Hong Kong, and traders in search of increasingly rare fish are now extending unsustainable fishing practices all over the Pacific Ocean. ‘Fishes are probably the most overexploited marine resource in Hong Kong and much more needs to be done to conserve them’ says Dr Andy Cornish of WWF Hong Kong.

According to biologists, reef fish, which take 5-10 years to reach breeding age, are particularly susceptible to overfishing. They add that the trade in such fish is difficult to manage insofar as fishing is carried out on a small scale on by rural communities.

The IUCN World Conservation Union, the world’s largest and most important conservation network, has issued a warning that 20 species of grouper, a globally important group of 162 coral reef food fishes, are threatened with extinction unless management or conservation measures are introduced.

This was the conclusion of a panel of 20 experts from ten countries at a recent conservation summit convened to assess the status of groupers worldwide. Groupers are the basis of the multi-million dollar live reef fish market of the sea food trade centered in Hong Kong, where consumers can pay up to US$50 per kg for this delicacy. Groupers are also the most valuable commercial fishes in the fresh fish markets of the tropics and sub-tropics.

World Conservation Union
WWF Hong Kong

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