Rare fish trade hard to swallow, Cairns audience told at International Reef Symposium
SCIENTISTS fear the endangered maori wrasse will be under increased threat, as China%u2019s growing wealth is expected to lead to greater demand for the luxury seafood item.
The estimated $1 billion US live reef fish trade, which caters to Chinese consumers, is expected to grow and place increased pressure on vulnerable reef stocks, according to University of Hong Kong marine science Professor Yvonne Sadovy at the International Reef Symposium in Cairns.
The humphead maori wrasse is the most highly-prized restaurant fish in China and Hong Kong, fetching up to $US150 per kg, Prof Sadovy said.
"It is now threatened by the international trade," she said.
"There still continues to be illegal trade in this fish and we are concerned. We need to be looking after these threatened species."
The maori wrasse is a protected species in Australia and, as a result, the population is in "pretty good shape", Prof Sadovy said.
"Australia has managed its own live fishery well as far as we can tell, so they can be managed."
But the species has been heavily exploited for the live reef fish trade in southeastern Asia, with some data suggesting a 10-fold or greater decline recently in Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.
The maori wrasse has been listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature since 2004.
Governments around the world need to follow Australia in protecting the vulnerable maori wrasse, Prof Sadovy said.
"The precedent that has been set by the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea … I think it is very important," she said.
There are about 15 species at risk from the global reef fish trade, including groupers and snappers.
"The trouble is that without management these fish, because of their ecology, are very easy to overfish," Prof Sadovy said.
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Vulnerable: The Maori Wrasse, under increasing threat from dinner plates, is spotted swimming in Turtle Bay off Agincourt Reef. Picture: TOURISM QUEENSLAND