THE live rock trade will soon be phased out as efforts continue to sustain healthy reef systems in Fiji and the Pacific.
Department of Fisheries principal research officer Aisake Batibasaga said operators should plan accordingly and look for alternative commodities now that the quota for live rock harvest may decrease.
Aquarium industry players actively participating in the non-detrimental finding process for the live rock trade were also advised to take heed of the phasing out project.
"Other countries that are also exporting live rock (like Indonesia) are also phasing out on harvest of live rock from the wild, and are currently building up live rock farming (mariculture) as a viable option," Mr Batibasaga said.
He said there was a need to develop mariculture options for live rock soon.
"A timeline of 3-5 years has been recommended to the operators to develop live rock culture capacity, and established market acceptance."
This, he said, was also what the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES) committee wanted from the aquarium industry.
He said industry stakeholders needed to understand that intact, healthy reef systems were important for food security, livelihood security, aesthetic attractions for tourism potentials and values.
"Economic resilience will be dependent on healthy productive reef systems, and land-based resources, which should support tourism potentials.
"The last thing anyone wants is a dead, bare and unproductive reef system."
He said the Fiji economy and its resilience was depended on the tourism industry. "The industry should follow operational guidelines — Endangered and Protected Species Act and CITES requirements - which require the formulation of standards like collection area management plans (CAMPs), environment impact assessments and non-detrimental finding (NDF) assessment reports for each of the individual collection areas," he said.
So far, Mr Batibasaga said operators were not adhering to the requirements especially those that were collecting live rock — some of which had been in the business since 1995.