Corals are fragmented (left) attached to cement discs (center) and cultured in shallow water for 6 months to two years (right) and then exported

Live rock extracted from the reef with a crowbar (left) , washed and packaged for export to the U.S.(right). This causes loss of important habitat and increases erosion to the reef and coastal areas

Damage from this trade is massive:

  •  loss of biodiversity due to overfishing and selective removal of certain species
  •  coral reef degradation from cyanide used to stun reef fish
  •  removal of key herbivores and predators that control corallivores
  •  shifts in ecosystem balance and loss of resilience

More than 1800 species of reef fish, 100s of stony corals and over 1000 other invertebrate species are harvested from the wild to supply hobbyists with animals for their reef tanks.   An additional 1.5 million kgs of reef rock (live rock) is removed from the framework of the reef using chisels and crow bars (top left).  Corals, molluscs, fish and other animals are also killed, dried, polished and sold to tourists as curios (center and bottom)

​Most aquaria organisms (over 70%) come from Indonesia and the Philippines, along with Fiji, Malaysia, PNG, Vanuatu and 40 other countries while the United States imports about 60% of the harvested animals

  • ​30 million reef fish are exported from reefs each year, worth about USD $45 million. 
  • Indonesia supplies most of the coral, followed by Fiji, with more than 1.5 million colonies harvested annually

There are alternatives:

  • Artificial live rock, such as that produced in Fiji (left), can be manufactured and cultured in the water before export
  • Maricultured corals grown from small fragments in lagoons provide local income and do not require wild harvest
  • Currently fewer than 50 species of reef fish are captive bred, yet more emphasis on this is necessary as these are an environmentally friendly alternative to wild-harvested coral reef species

In Fiji, some of the live rock is manufactured from rubble collected along the shore and mixed with cement (left), and then incubated in shallow areas for about a year (right), before being packaged and exported.

Tanks of wild harvested corals waiting for export (left)