Brian Tissot, marine ecologist, discusses the marine aquarium trade. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how the United States, as the world’s largest importer of marine ornamental species for the aquaria, curio, home decor and jewelry industries, has an opportunity to leverage its market power to promote more sustainable trade and reduce the effects of this trade on coral reefs worldwide. The trade in coral and coral reef species for ornamental purposes is substantial and growing, with approximately 30 million fish and 1.5 million live stony corals removed from the ecosystem each year. The aquarium industry alone targets some 1,500 species of reef fish, and many die in transit, prompting collectors to gather even more animals to compensate for potential losses. With the United States accounting for over half of the ornamental trade in live coral, reef fish and invertebrates, Tissot and 17 other scientists are calling on this country to leverage its market demand—through additional regulation and enforcement, public awareness campaigns, certification of sustainable products, and assistance to spread best practices in source countries—to make the trade more sustainable.
Dr. Brian Tissot is a Professor in the School of Earth and Environmental Science at Washington State University Vancouver. His research is focused on the interface between biology, management, and policy and examines ecological interactions between habitat and commercially important marine fishes and invertebrates and the role of the community in managing marine resources. Through collaboration with state, federal and international agencies he is involved in a range of activities including basic research, research with implications towards resource management, and environmental policy development in Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and California. In Hawaii, he helped improve the management of an aquarium fishery along the Kona coast by being a part of a collaborative research program with state biologists and policy makers, SeaGrant extension, and the local community. On the west coast he is examining the role of continental shelf invertebrates, especially deep water corals, and how they function as critical habitat for commercially important fishes. Information from his work has been used to improve management strategies for coral reefs in the Pacific, west coast bottom trawling, and in the development of legislation in Congress. In addition to over 60 publications in scientific journals, Dr. Tissot’s work has been featured in Scientific American, National Geographic News, Smithsonian magazine and in the Washington Post. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on July 26, 2010.