UMS AQUARIUM  |  Seaweed Development Project  |  NAPOLEON Wrasse  |  TBCRI Tropical Biology and Conservation Research Institute  |  UNIVERSITY MALAYSIA SABAH TAWAU CAMPUS  |  University Malaysia Sabah   |

NAPOLEON Wrasse, also known as the Humphead Wrasse, is a big reef fish that is extremely vulnerable in existence. Green Heart Issue 03 related how the fish's existence is threatened by destructive fishing techniques as well as its high demand for consumption as food.

Since then things have progressed in favour of the Napoleon.

At the 13th Conference of the Parties to CITES1 meeting in Bangkok last October, the Napoleon Wrasse was listed in CITES Appendix II. While the listing does not mean a total ban from international trade, it does require both exporting and importing countries to regulate the Napoleon's trade - usually traded as live fish - under a strict permit system. This is to ensure that the trade is kept within sustainable limits.

In Malaysia, obtaining a permit to internationally trade a species listed in CITES Appendix II requires that CITES authority assess whether the trade will negatively affect remaining wild populations. Called "non-detrimental finding", this assessment allows for better monitoring and management of the particular species, ensuring its survival in its habitats.

For the Napoleon, assessment should recommend protecting juveniles from capture, including for the purpose of "grow-out" in fish farms. It should also be protected during the reproductive seasons, particularly during spawning aggregations.

Sabah is the principle source of Napoleon Wrasse in Malaysia, but population estimates suggest that the species may have declined by as much as 99% in some areas. Interviews conducted by the Society for the Conservation of Reef Fish Aggregations (SCRFA) among Sabah fishermen show that many earlier known spawning aggregation sites are now empty. Unfortunately, interviews also revealed that many fishermen were unconcerned with these facts - or regarded them as a result of outsiders' activities. It is clear that there is a need for more awareness on long-term consequences of unregulated fish harvest. As no other regulation is so far in place, it is high time for marine areas that provide reef fish to receive the protection needed to ensure sustainable reproduction.

While CITES gives some protection to the Napoleon traded internationally, there is still an issue with local consumption. So far, little has been done to regulate consumption of Napoleons in Malaysia. However, some lessons from WWF's campaign work in Hong Kong may provide valuable guidance for what could be done locally.

WWF-Hong Kong's Clams Chu led a team effort by WWF, TRAFFIC and IUCN at the CITES conference to support the Appendix II listing, and to explain to other countries the urgent need for greater management of the Napoleon Wrasse.

"We are excited and overjoyed by the result, especially because it was accepted by consensus among the Parties," said Chu. "But we also think that there is still much we need to do from both producer and consumer ends of the trade. Public awareness is particularly important at the consumer end to let people know that this species is threatened, and we need to do something to stop the consumption of juvenile fish."

WWF's focus on changing consumer awareness has targeted Hong Kong - the most important import market for Napoleon Wrasse in the live reef food fish trade. In a positive response from the Hong Kong public, over 3,000 online signatures were generated in support for the protection of the species.

Listing under CITES is a big step in the right direction, but there is still plenty of work ahead to design and enforce trade regulations within Malaysia to support the implementation of CITES for international trade. The battle to sustainably manage the live reef food fish trade will continue, but for now at least, the Napoleons have won a major victory in Bangkok.

Public Universities of Malaysian Government  November 18, 2013 02:04:43 PM

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