Magazine article New Internationalist

Dead in the Water [the Poisonous Effects of the Billion-Dollar Trade in Tropical Fish]

Magazine article New Internationalist

Dead in the Water [the Poisonous Effects of the Billion-Dollar Trade in Tropical Fish]

Article excerpt

In South East Asia and the South Pacific, divers armed with squirt bottles chase brightly coloured fish into coral and spurt cyanide into the holes where they hide. A few moments later, dazed fish start to emerge. Up to 90 per cent of these fish are overcome by the clouds of cyanide and they die or are permanently injured. The rest are sold to dealers who take them to live-fish restaurants and tropical aquariums. 'It is like cocaine,' says one Hong Kong fish-seller. 'You can get $300 for a single Napoleon wrasse fish. With fleets from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines carrying drums of cyanide, this is big business. Huge money is involved, attracting some bad people.'

The cyanide which makes it possible to deliver live fish to traders also leaves dead coral in its wake. An active cyanide-user doses 50 coral heads a day, 225 days a year.

As the first country to start using cyanide, the Philippines now have vast areas of devastated coral reefs. Three thousand fishers squirt tens of millions of coral heads a year.

Destruction of coral has reduced fish habitat and stocks so drastically that many small-scale Filipino fishers have seen their daily catch drop by half. …

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