98% of Marine Fish Headed For the Aquarium Trade Die Within a Year in the Phillippines

Almost all wild caught marine fish for the aquarium trade will die within a year of capture, according to WWF.

Almost all wild caught marine fish for the aquarium trade will die within a year of capture, according to WWF.

Following months of interviews with Filipino marine exporters and hobbyists, WWF-Philippines have found that roughly 80% of all marine fish die before they are sold, and those that survive long enough to be bought by hobbyists are extremely likely to be dead in under a year.


Unregulated capture techniques and improper bagging along with poor transportation and stocking practices result in the high mortalities, according to WWF-Philippines. Only the hardiest fish are likely to survive, such as clownfish (Amphiprion spp), damselfish (Chrysiptera spp), wrasses (Labroides spp) and gobies.

Technological advances in the 1970s meant that it was possible to keep marine life in your home aquarium, and by 1992 the trade of marine fish, coral and invertebrates was worth $1 billion worldwide. This industry is a significant driver for the Filipino economy, being especially important for fish collectors throughout the archipelago. Although factors such as climate change, pollution and poor harvesting practices have decimated reefs and depleted marine populations.

Brackish fish (species found where freshwater and saltwater meet) and freshwater fish have long-adapted to dealing with rapid changes in their environment. With heavy rain and storms filling their habitat with mud and silt, they have evolved to cope with major fluctuations. However, marine fish live in one of the most stable environments on earth – the ocean – where any change in composition is less dramatic, resulting in less pressure on species to become hardier. But home aquarium environments are often more variable than oceans, making marine fish less likely to survive than their freshwater counterparts.

Unregulated collection and unsustainable fish farming have resulted in the total loss of certain species from areas where they used to be abundant, such as the emperor angelfish and clown triggerfish, which have become increasingly more popular with hobbyists because of their bright coloration and high-value. Similarly, in the years following the release of the 2003 animated film "Finding Nemo", consumer demand for clownfish has soared and consequently the natural population of clownfish has decreased nearly 75% in some areas.

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Clownfish Aquarium via Shutterstock