Conservation and management of ornamental coral reef wildlife: Successes, shortcomings, and future directions

Laura E. Dee, Stephanie S. Horii, Daniel J. Thornhill

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Trade in ornamental coral reef wildlife supports a multi-million dollar industry but in some places threatens vulnerable coral reef species and ecosystems due to unsustainable practices and lack of effective regulation. To supply this trade, fishers sometimes deplete fish populations and rely on practices, such as cyanide fishing, that harm coral reef organisms and habitats. The number of countries involved, dispersed fishing localities, and the diversity of species in trade present considerable impediments to conservation and management. For instance, traditional fisheries management techniques such as stock assessments and total catch limits may not be feasible for ornamental fisheries, which are characterized by limited data on population dynamics, stock status, and collection effort, as well as instances of illegal, underreported, and unregulated fishing. A number of strategies to monitor, regulate, and manage the trade have been implemented with varying efficacy. In order to learn from previous attempts and identify promising approaches, we reviewed selected management practices and regulations from diverse settings, with attention to the effectiveness of each approach. Strategies reviewed include international agreements, marine protected areas, rotational closures, banned-species lists, quotas, cyanide detection, gear restrictions, size limits, licensing and limited entry into the fishery, and regulations on imports. Moratoriums on certain species, no-take reserves, tiered quota systems, and import and export restrictions, among others, provided examples of management successes. Further conservation and management improvements could be achieved through a wider application of successful strategies identified here and utilization of data-limited methods from food fisheries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-237
Number of pages13
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Molly Bogeberg, James Comley, Cara Cooper, Steven Gaines, Stuart Green, Celia Landesberg, Leah Meadvin, Steve J. Miller, Domingo Ochavillo, Andrew Rhyne, Anthony Roelofs, Michael Tlusty, Alison Schiebelhut, Todd Stevenson, Colette Wabnitz, and Kathleen Williams for helpful comments, information, and discussions that improved this review. We thank three anonymous reviewers who provided helpful suggestions that improved this manuscript. This work was supported by the Kingfisher Foundation. L. Dee was supported by a NSF GRFP and the Daniel Vapnek Fellowship for Sustainable Fisheries at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management.


  • Aquarium trade
  • Coral reef conservation
  • Coral reef fisheries
  • Ornamental fisheries
  • Sustainable fisheries management


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