Background: Fishery management has historically been an inexact and reactionary discipline, often taking action only after a critical stock suffers overfishing or collapse. The invertebrate ornamental fishery in the State of Florida, with increasing catches over a more diverse array of species, is poised for collapse. Current management is static and the lack of an adaptive strategy will not allow for adequate responses associated with managing this multi-species fishery. The last decade has seen aquarium hobbyists shift their display preference from fish-only tanks to miniature reef ecosystems that include many invertebrate species, creating increased demand without proper oversight. The once small ornamental fishery has become an invertebrate-dominated major industry supplying five continents.
Methodology/Principal Findings: Here, we analyzed the Florida Marine Life Fishery (FLML) landing data from 1994 to 2007 for all invertebrate species. The data were organized to reflect both ecosystem purpose (in the wild) and ecosystem services (commodities) for each reported species to address the following question: Are ornamental invertebrates being exploited for their fundamental ecosystem services and economic value at the expense of reef resilience? We found that 9 million individuals were collected in 2007, 6 million of which were grazers.
Conclusions/Significance: The number of grazers now exceeds, by two-fold, the number of specimens collected for curio and ornamental purposes altogether, representing a major categorical shift. In general, landings have increased 10-fold since 1994, though the number of licenses has been dramatically reduced. Thus, despite current management strategies, the FLML Fishery appears to be crawling to collapse.
Rhyne, Andrew L.; Rotjan, Randi; Bruckner, Andrew; and Tlusty, Michael, "Crawling to Collapse: Ecologically Unsound Ornamental Invertebrate Fisheries" (2009). Feinstein College of Arts & Sciences Faculty Publications. 157.