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Researchers appeal for new regulations to save coral reefs from live fish trade

Researchers are calling for tighter controls on the live reef fish trade, a growing threat to coral reefs, in letters to the international journal Science.

Twenty of the world's leading marine scientists, including a team from the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, have called for action by governments to halt the unsustainable plunder of the world's ocean resources.

For decades tropical coral reefs have battled for survival against a complex array of threats including pollution, coral bleaching triggered by rising sea temperatures and over-fishing.

In particular, the health of the reefs is being compromised by the live reef fish trade, a serious threat that has prompted scientists to call for tighter regulations on the exploitation of reef resources which are particularly important to developing tropical nations.

The scientists say there is now sufficient evidence to conclude that reforming markets, which have dramatically expanded as a result of global trade liberalization, is an important strategy for controlling roving bandits.

The live fish trade is an increasing pressure on coral reef resources, both in terms of magnitude and geographical spread. The combination of destructive harvesting methods and over-harvesting of large, predatory fish reef fish have devastating effects.

Being able to choose a huge fish to eat from a tank is a big pull in luxury seafood restaurants. Fish such as the Napoleon wrasse, a giant reef fish that commonly reaches 2 m in length and lives for more than 30 years, are top of the menu and especially vulnerable.

But once on the plate, the absence of an important part of the food chain means the coral reef hierarchy is in turmoil. The coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish is likely to thrive in these situations, particularly when the corals are already stressed by a multitude of other impacts including global warming.

According to the 2004
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Contact: Nerissa Hannink
nkh21@admin.cam.ac.uk
01-22-333-2300
University of Cambridge
4-Aug-2006


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