Magazine article USA TODAY

Establishing Standards for Aquarium Trade. (Marine Biology)

Magazine article USA TODAY

Establishing Standards for Aquarium Trade. (Marine Biology)

Article excerpt

Cyanide poisoning may be the stuff of murder mysteries, but it seems an unlikely way for tropical fish or coral reefs to die. That is what can happen, though, when divers in Southeast Asia use cyanide to capture valuable fish for sale to the aquarium trade, indicates Sherry Larkin, an assistant professor in the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Gainesville, who is helping to evaluate standards for proper capture, handling, and sale of saltwater tropical fish and invertebrates such as coral, sea anemones, and shellfish.

The divers use plastic squid bottles filled with a diluted cyanide solution to stun fish long enough to net them, she notes. "The practice is common in Indonesia and the Philippines, which supply 85% of the world's saltwater aquarium fish." The cyanide may later kill the target fish and harm nontarget species, live coral, and even the divers themselves. In some areas, entire reef ecosystems are in danger of being destroyed.

Larkin, a food and resource economist, is part of the first attempt to develop such standards, led by the Marine Aquarium Council (MAC), an international nonprofit organization based in Honolulu. It launched a certification program to establish and enforce voluntary guidelines for every link in the industry chain that brings marine aquarium organisms from their native waters to retail consumers. …

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