Net-Only Fish Collection
by Indonesian Collectors
Marine Aquarium Council (MAC), Indonesia
photographs courtesy of MAC
The Marine Aquarium Council (MAC) is an
international, not-for-profit organization that
brings marine aquarium animal collectors,
exporters, importers, and retailers together with
aquarium keepers, public aquariums, conservation
organizations, and government agencies. MAC's
mission is to conserve coral reefs and other marine
ecosystems by creating standards and certification
for those engaged in the collection and care of
ornamental marine life from reef to aquarium.
Many hobbyists are unaware
that cyanide and other
poisons may still be used
by fish collectors to catch
marine ornamentals. Most of the fishes
caught using cyanide die well before they
reach the retailer. Others do make it as far
as a hobbyist’s aquarium, only to die a few
months later because of internal damage
caused by the cyanide.
The use of net-only collection techniques is
an eco-friendly and sustainable alternative to
the use of cyanide. For years, collectors have
been using cyanide fishing as an easy and
fast means to harvest marine ornamentals.
Cyanide damages reefs and causes elevated
levels of fish mortality. Through training
workshops and recruitment of skilled net
collectors, the Marine Aquarium Council
(MAC) has demonstrated that all species
can be caught responsibly, sustainably,
and in a timely manner. With improved
handling techniques, fish are less stressed,
and lower mortality rates and healthier
fish are being observed. This significantly
improves the quality of fish, resulting in
economic benefits for the collectors from
their fishing activity.
MAC has been helping to train Indonesian
fish-collecting groups in adopting net-only
capture methods for more than five years.
While collectors are initially skeptical that
fish can be caught in other ways besides
using cyanide, they become convinced
when experienced local collectors and
trainers show them that it is possible.
Using only nets, a collector can catch the
same amount of fish without the high
reject rates, mortalities, and reef damage
associated with cyanide use.
Since manufactured netting is expensive
and not available in most local shops, many
Indonesian collectors must make their nets
by hand. Nets are woven using a needle and
strong cotton, or sometimes nylon thread. A
scoop net can be woven in a day, but a full-length barrier net can take up to a month
to weave. Experienced weavers can sell the
nets they make to other collectors. Nets
are woven between collecting sessions, on
the boat, in the village, or when the sea is
too rough for collecting. Weaving is mostly
done in the daylight, especially where there
is no electricity.
If they have the funds, and can find
a source, collectors will often buy
manufactured netting. Mosquito netting
is sometimes available, but it is expensive,
weak, and the mesh is too small.
Some of the best factory-produced netting
is made from knotted, single-filament
nylon. It is lighter than handmade netting,
and nets of various types are quicker to
make. With few repairs, this type of net can
last for up to six months.
High-quality manufactured netting
can be imported, but when combined
with freight charges, the cost is generally
prohibitive for local fish collectors. The
manufacturers only sell in bulk, so several
thousand meters need to be purchased
each time. The best and most affordable
netting comes from Taiwan, costing only a
few cents per meter.
Between fishing trips, collectors take
the opportunity to repair their nets and
sew new ones. They also discuss types of
netting and capture techniques. They often