“You cannot actually describe a coral reef; you have to have experienced it to fully appreciate it”. As early as 1874, Ernst Haeckel impressively described the beauty of these wonders of the world.

In my opinion, no aquarium can ever begin to replicate the wonder and intricacy of a natural coral reefs. In view of the threat that coral reefs are faced with today, it is of utmost importance to monitor the trade in its inhabitants. How many fishes are collected in coral reefs around the world? Which species? Where exactly? May they be threatened by this trade? These and more questions drive my research.

Member of the IUCN SSC Species Monitoring Specialist Group

The trade in marine ornamental fishes is almost a century old but has never been properly monitored. It’s valued at several billion dollars a year. [1] [2]

Almost all coral fishes that spend their existence in an aquarium do not come from a breeding facility, but directly from the wild, a coral reef. Of the approximately 2,300 species that are commercially available, only about 1 percent breed in captivity. For about 340 species, the breeding success rate is still at the research stage. [3]

Due to capture, handling, and transport methods, up to 80 percent of coral reef fishes can die before they reach an aquarium.[4][5][6] The few ornamental fishes that arrive in an aquarium often do not live for very long, which is why an estimated 30 million [2] – possibly as many as 150 million [7] – are traded worldwide every year.

With my research I want to shed some light into this trade and find out if it can be detrimental to some species. [8] I strongly advocate to monitor this trade. There are already tools in place like trade data bases. In European there is the Trade Control and Expert System TRACES and in the United States of America there is LEMIS; two of the large markets for aquarium fishes. These tools could be adapted to monitor this trade properly.

According to the IPCC climate report of 2018, by 2100, with global warming of 1.5°C, all coral reefs could decline by 70 to 90 percent, while at 2° C, virtually all (> 99 %) would be lost forever. [9] A study confirmed these devastating findings in 2022. [10] For example, Switzerland – my home country – has already exceeded the 2°C limit.

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