Postharvesting Mortality

There are many factors that lead to post-harvesting mortality, such as physical damage and use of chemicals during collection, poor handling practice and disease. Even when collected in an environmentally sound manner, aquarium organisms often suffer from poor handling and transport practices resulting in stress and poor health of marine individuals30. Accurate figures of post-harvesting mortality are not available due to the sensitivity of such

Bagging specimens for the ornamental trade.

Yellow tang, Zebrasoma flavescens.

Bagging specimens for the ornamental trade.

Yellow tang, Zebrasoma flavescens.

information. However, research on the marine ornamental trade between Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom demonstrates that in the mid-1980s about 15 per cent of fish died during and immediately after collection, another 10 per cent died during transit and a further 5 per cent in holding facilities20. Similar levels of mortality of 10-20 per cent were found in a study examining the Puerto Rican trade186. As a result of such mortality, more fish often need to be collected than would be necessary to harvest in order to meet market demand32. Where organisms are collected, stored and handled by adequately trained individuals, and transported in suitable conditions, estimated levels of fish mortality have been as low as a few per cent. Although post-harvest mortality levels are generally lower for corals than they are for fish, more live rock and coral fragments are often collected than would be needed to satisfy trade demand as originally harvested pieces are often considered of inadequate size, shape or colour and discarded.

State-of-the-art equipment may help reduce losses, but it is also expensive and thus beyond the budget of many wholesalers in source countries. Fortunately, this trend is reversing with an increasing number of facilities in source nations investing in high-tech equipment, particularly UV lighting systems and protein skimmers.

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