Monitoring the trade in marine ornamental fishes through the European Trade Control and Expert System TRACES: Challenges and possibilities
The trade in marine ornamental fishes is valued at over a billion dollars annually and comprises thousands of species. Historically, scientists have pointed out the importance of accurate trade statistics to monitor this trade. Today, there remains no global systems in place to monitor it. Europe is a major importer of coral reef fishes, and uses the Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) to monitor trade in live animals for disease prevention. This database is not intended to record strict species-specific information on marine ornamental fishes, rather numbers of traded specimens and information on species to at least family level. Therefore, it is possible to estimate the volume of trade into Europe, which amounted to approximately 4 million marine ornamental fishes per year during 2014 and 2017. Susceptible species were identified using the number of traded specimens, trends in the trade volume, IUCN Red List conservation status, as well as vulnerability according to FishBase. After normalization of this data a score was created to produce a watchlist that establishes susceptibility to overexploitation of the species traded considering all parameters combined. Unfortunately, almost one third of all species is listed as data deficient or not evaluated by the IUCN Red List and could not be included in this calculation. Species on the watchlist should be given priority for further monitoring through the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). This study suggests that TRACES, subject to several modifications, could be used as a tool to monitor trade in marine ornamental fishes.