IndoReefFish Initiative Launched to Address Challenges in Indonesia’s Marine Aquarium Fish Trade


Indonesia has long been recognized as a major contributor to the global marine aquarium trade, serving as a key supplier of coral reef fishes since the 1990s. Government statistics from 2017 reveal that Indonesia exported a staggering 2.61 million fish from approximately 700 species, generating an annual income of approximately $7.2 million USD. This thriving fishery not only sustains the livelihoods of small-scale fishers and their families but also supports numerous traders across the value chain, making it a crucial resource for economic stability.

However, despite its economic significance, the marine aquarium fish industry faces pressing challenges. One prominent concern is the lack of comprehensive data and information regarding the volume and species composition of fish caught, as well as their respective collection areas and the number of fishers reliant on this fishery. Moreover, reports indicate that environmentally damaging fishing practices, which harm fragile coral reef ecosystems, persist in certain areas. The degradation of coral reefs, essential habitats for marine aquarium fish, coupled with overfishing, has led to a decline in the populations of high-value target species.

Recognizing both the challenges and opportunities inherent in managing Indonesia’s marine aquarium fish resources, LINI, in collaboration with partners from the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, USA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the Coral Reef Aquarium Fisheries Campaign (CRAFC) – USA, and RARE Indonesia, has launched the IndoReefFish project. This initiative aims to introduce a new management paradigm for Indonesia’s marine aquarium fisheries, centered on an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) that prioritizes ecological sustainability, human well-being, and effective governance.

The official launch of the IndoReefFish project took place on March 5th at the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries office, followed by a workshop to outline the project’s objectives and strategies. The initiative received widespread support from stakeholders representing both the industry and government sectors, and also researchers from The National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), reflecting optimism about its potential to address pressing issues within the marine aquarium fish trade. There is a collective hope that the IndoReefFish program will expand its reach to engage other relevant institutions and organizations, ultimately making the sustainable management of ornamental fish fisheries a top priority for the Indonesian government.

By Gayatri Reksodihardjo-Lilley