World Wildlife Day 2020 Sustaining all life on earth

On World Wildlife Day 2020 we want to celebrate the role the home aquarium industry can play in promoting biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods in some of the remotest parts of the world.

That’s because people and communities in some of the poorest parts of the globe can make a living from catching live tropical fish which they supply for home aquariums.

There can be environmental benefits to buying wild caught fish.

Fishing communities are important stewards of their natural environment, particularly if they can make a living which is in harmony with the world on their doorstep.

Fish thrive in clean environments so this encourages good stewardship of that environment to sustain a long-term income from catching wild fish.

UN Sustainable Development Target 14.7 states:

UN Sustainable Development Goal No 14.7

And we need to ask: what would fishermen do if they cannot catch wild fish for the home aquarium industry? Potentially the livelihoods on offer could be more environmentally destructive than this low volume, high value practice of catching live tropical fish for the home aquarium industry.

Project Piaba has studied the riverine fishing communities in the Rio Negro region of Brazil for more than 25 years.

These fishermen (called piaberos) and their families use hand-held nets to catch the colourful cardinal tetra and discus fish, which are plentiful when the forest floods every year.

These fish will die as the water recedes.

These tiny freshwater fish used to contribute 65% of the Barcelos economy and, in its heyday, the trade employed at least a thousand families directly – not counting supporting industries

But the trade is declining which could have dire consequences for the community and the Amazon rainforest.

“When fishers are asked what they would do if they could not sell fish, the most common answers are: timber harvest, cattle ranching, gold mining, or urban migration.” Project Piaba website.

It’s for this reason that Project Piaba’s motto is ‘buy a fish, save a tree’.

Illegal trafficking is the problem – not honest trade

Both CITES and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030 show that well-managed trade in a country’s natural resources can bring significant benefits, both in sustainable livelihoods and to the environment of the country of origin.

Dilys Roe Chair of IUCN Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group.

“The theme of this year’s World Wildlife Day - Sustaining All Life on Earth – serves as a timely reminder that sustainable use is one of the three pillars of the UN Convention on Biodiversity, alongside conservation and equitable benefit sharing.

"Sometimes - particularly when we hear about species under threat of extinction and ecosystems on the brink of collapse – it is easy to think that the most important action we can take is to protect wildlife from humans.

"More often than not, it is the sustainable use of species by humans that can be key to their long term conservation."

Another interesting project to check out is Shoal Conservation which has been set up to fund projects to save freshwater fish species.

Produced by the UK's Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA)

The 'voice' of the ornamental aquatics industry in the UK


Dominic Whitmee & Ian Watson