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NOUMEA, New Caledonia (February 18, 1999 - PACNEWS/Radio Australia)---Pacific Island nations have announced a campaign to fight the destruction of their coral reefs and fish stocks resulting from Asia's live fish restaurant trade.

The campaign has been announced by the New Caledonia-based Pacific Community (SPC), the economic and social technical assistance agency run by 22 Pacific Island governments.

The campaign is aimed at Asian fishermen who devastate entire reef systems by dousing them with cyanide, to stun the few species wanted for Hong Kong and other Asia restaurants.

The demand for live fish is so strong that the trade now is active in Kiribati, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Fiji.

Divers work cyanide into holes in the reef to stun larger fish, which are revived and flown to market. However, the activity causes smaller fish and coral to die.


MEDIA RELEASE February 17, 199


The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), with the help of the Nature Conservancy, has launched a regional strategy to help its member countries control potential problems resulting from the export of live reef fish from the Pacific.

The trade in exporting live reef fish for food is catching on in the Pacific (Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and recently Fiji), as demand continues -- especially in Hong Kong, Taiwan/ROC and southern China -- and supplies from Southeast Asia continue to dwindle.

With import prices fetching up to US$ 180 per kilogram wholesale for the prestigious Napoleon Wrasse in Hong Kong, it is also an opportunity for "adding value" to the reef fish resources of small Pacific countries.

However, in Southeast Asia, the use of the extremely toxic chemical sodium cyanide to catch the fish has caused widespread devastation to some of the world’s richest coral reefs. This has led to it being popularly called "the cyanide fishery."

Divers squirt cyanide into holes in the reef to stun and immobilize the fish so they can be easily captured. The fish are then revived and ultimately transported live to the market. But the cyanide affects more than just the fish that are targeted -- many smaller fish and shellfish that are less resistant die, as well as corals that form the basis of reef communities. Although toxic in large quantities, the cyanide concentrations in target fish are rarely fatal. However, the use of cyanide is a major concern in fishing communities where it is used and poorly stored. Some children are among those who have died as a result of directly drinking the chemicals or after drinking from containers that have been used to store the poison.

Dr. Tim Adams, Director of Marine Resources at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Noumea says, "The main reason for launching this strategy is to focus attention on this issue, which was given high priority at a recent Pacific Islands meeting. Donors are already expressing interest."

The regional strategy aims to provide the necessary scientific, policy and management advice and assistance to Pacific Island governments and communities and to increase general awareness of this issue so Pacific countries are able to deal with it sensibly without hurting their reef resources or their people.

The new initiative, called the "Live Reef Fish Pacific Regional Strategy," was endorsed by the SPC member fishery representatives in the New Zealand-funded Second Pacific Community Fisheries Management Workshop held in Noumea during October 1998.

Contacts: Sarah Langi Editor (English) Tel: (687) 26.01.96

E-mail: Fax: (687)26 38 18

Dr Tim Adams Director, Marine Resources Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Noumea, New Caledonia Tel. (687) 26 01 24 E-mail:

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