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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Assessing the Opportunities and Challenges of Creating a Sustainability Certification for the Marine Aquarium Trade


The marine aquarium trade is an industry that encompasses the sale of ornamental animals including fish, corals, and other invertebrates. It is a global industry that relies primarily on the collection of wild animals from coral reefs throughout tropical areas of the world. The industry is complex, with supply chains and practices varying drastically by region. There are many benefits offered by the trade but also several deficiencies, which can contribute to environmental degradation, overexploitation, and increased animal mortality. Creating an ecolabel for the trade could help address these problems by informing consumers which animals are sustainably caught and handled. An organization called the Marine Aquarium Council created such a label, but the program failed within 10 years of its launch. Through industry interviews, it was determined that the cause of failure was poor leadership, ignoring stakeholder needs, and misguided choices regarding the structure, strategy, and economics of the certification program. By addressing these missteps, a new program can be created that will be functional and successful.

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