A market survey and review of government statistics were carried out to establish imports and exports of marine ornamental fishes into and out of Hong Kong, and to examine the local trade in terms of volume, value and species composition. Official government import figures for marine aquarium fishes were available from 1984 to 1991 and from 1997 and 1998. When compared with net imports, export and re-export volumes over the 15-year period were small, indicating that most imports entered the local market, or were exported unrecorded. The market survey of marine aquarium shops in Hong Kong was carried out between August 1996 and January 1997. From this survey, an annual estimate of 957,563 coral reef fish was calculated for the local trade, valued at HK$57,453,780, with a mean retail price of HK$60 per fish. These figures account for an estimated 2–3% of the global value and volume of marine aquarium fish trade, according to 1992 figures and, compared with government figures, indicate that official declarations of imports are underreported by at least 2–3 fold. A total of 342 marine aquarium fish species, from 49 families, were recorded with about 60% belonging to the families Labridae, Chaetodontidae, Pomacanthidae and Pomacentridae. It was estimated that a large proportion of the trade was in juvenile fishes and almost all fish were less than 10 cm in standard length. It was common to see fishes in poor condition, species hard to maintain in captivity, or those listed for conservation concern, on sale. There are no regulations for local traders of live marine fishes other than those relating to either protected species or animal welfare. Licensing of traders in marine fishes could be introduced under existing Hong Kong legislation if fishes were to be re-classified as animals. This is strongly recommended as a step towards regulating and managing the trade in Hong Kong.
marine aquarium fishHong Konglive fish tradecoral reef fishtropical marine ornamentals