Tracking the Marine Aquarium Trade

Home aquariums are a popular hobby, but until now there was no way of knowing exactly how many marine fish and invertebrates are imported to the U.S. The same can be said about details on where the species that fill home aquarium tanks originate. The Marine Aquarium Biodiversity and Trade Flow data portal changes all that.

Researchers from Roger Williams University and the New England Aquarium developed the interactive web tool to illuminate and evaluate the global shipping pathways of the aquarium trade. Registered users can examine exporting countries and the ports where the fish and invertebrates enter the U.S. Additional features include selecting a species/group of species to determine origin and volume in the trade.  

The web portal is the culmination of several years of work, including tabulating the volume and diversity of marine ornamental species entering the U.S. via aquarium trade pathways. Researchers gathered information from the invoices attached to import declarations provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine the number of species the U.S. imports. They found that for the aquarium hobby, over 2,250 marine fish species and 725 invertebrate have been imported into the U.S. during the study period (2000-2011). 

This level of information is critical to help countries better manage their coral reef ecosystems. These fish represent significant local incomes in the counties that export them, and rely on healthy reefs. By understanding the trade dynamics, stakeholders can maximize the economic benefits of robust coral reefs.

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Partners in this project include: The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, NOAA Fisheries, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Roger Williams University, and the New England Aquarium.

Aquarium fish