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When we’re young, aquariums mesmerize us with their colorful, mysterious underwater world of fish, urchins and alien-like plants that we might rarely see otherwise. Initially, aquariums seem full of dazzlingly life, and some even try to serve as educational institutions with little information cards pasted next to exhibits to notify us of the animals’ importance.

While certain aquariums can provide educational opportunities, there is an unsettling unseen world lurking beneath, like in many industries that use and exploit animals.

According to WWF-Philippines, nearly all marine fish caught for the aquarium trade – 98 out of every 100 – die within a year of being captured in the Philippines, a country that heavily depends on this trade. About 80 percent of these fish die before they are even sold to aquarium hobbyists and still more, around 90 percent, die just within the first year of being sold.

The only fish that seem to survive the shipment and handling fairly well include clownfish, damselfish, wrasses, gobies and blennies. Others barely get the chance.

Advances in technology during the 1970s fueled the marine fish trade as it became popular to keep these exotic creatures in home aquariums and by 1992, the trade of marine fish, coral and invertebrates had an estimated worth of one billion dollars worldwide, reports Mongabay.

Despite the Pollution, poor harvesting practices, and the effects of Climate change that have since decimated fish populations and reef habitats, the marine fish trade remains strong.

Today, it’s valued at over one billion dollars with 40 nations supplying 2,000 marine fish and 650 invertebrate species to countries all around the world (the U.S. tops the list by importing half the world’s marine ornamental fish), reports WWF-Philippines.

So what can be done to help? WWF has come up with five fairly simple solutions to the morality rate problem and abuses associated with the marine fish trade. These include:

  1. Avoiding or banning hard-to-keep fish such as cleaner wrasses, mandarin dragonets, Moorish idols, and seahorses.
  2. Promoting hardy fish like clownfish, damsels, gobies, wrasses, and surgeonfish.
  3. Shifting to artificial corals and invertebrates as the care of these real-life species is very complex and difficult without proper cutting-edge equipment and a large financial pocket.
  4. Changing to aquacultured fish and invertebrates which can reduce population drops in the wild by ensuring that a percentage of juveniles are returned to the ocean.
  5. Raising the prices of saltwater fish and invertebrates to discourage the marine fish trade.

These solutions can place countries engaged in the marine fish trade on the right track. While it would be most ideal, of course, if the trade was completely banned, more sustainable practices should certainly be implemented to reduce the amount of damage done if a total ban cannot be set in motion now, or even in the future (though we can still hope).

Image source: Allentchang / Wikipedia Commons