Collection Point: Marshall Islands
The Point of Origin for Many Popular Marine Aquarium Animals
The Marshall Islands are comprised of 29 atolls with over 1,000 islets and five islands in the Pacific Ocean about halfway between Australia and Hawaii. The actual landmass of the Marshall Islands is roughly equivalent to that of Washington, D.C., although the population is only about 60,000 people. Like many island groups in the Indo-Pacific, the Marshall Islands provide a steady supply of marine animals for the marine aquarium industry world-wide.
Source of Flame Angels
Although the landmass of the Marshall Islands is relatively small, the Islands spread across a sea area of over 750,000 square miles and, thus, contain significant biodiversity. These Island waters are home to over 900 species of fishes, over 250 of which are reef-associated, from 102 families. The two archipelagic island chains which make up the Marshall Islands--the Ratak, or Sunrise Group and the Ralik, or Sunset Group--are located just north of the Equator. Most of the islands are small islets surrounded by coral reefs with a lagoon in between. In the Marshall Islands, Majuro has for years been the source for many (if not most) of the flame angelfishes which have entered the trade.
Today, most of the collection for the marine aquarium trade occurs weekly on collection boats which hold fish and other animals in live wells aboard the boat. Collection practices are governed by the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority Act 1988, which prohibits the use of explosives, poison or other noxious substances for the purpose of catching fish. The majority of marine aquarium animals collected are shipped to Hawaii, from where they are distributed to North America, Europe and Asia.
Mariculture and Aquaculture
Although the majority of animals exported from the Marshall Islands are wild-caught, local efforts to develop sustainable farms for propagation of giant clams (Tridacna spp.) and Trochus snails have been successful, and there has been increased success with farming corals.