Fishing With Cyanide – Coral Reef Genocide

Cyanide Fishing Destroys Coral Reefs

Cyanide, one of the most toxic poisons known, is being used to catch live fish in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. Fishermen stun fish by squirting cyanide into the reef areas where these fish seek refuge. They then rip apart the reefs with crowbars to capture disoriented fish in the coral where they hide. In addition, cyanide kills coral polyps and the symbiotic algae and other small organisms necessary for healthy reefs.

"These practices are criminal . . . they attack the natural productive environment which allows the renewal of marine resources. Destroying coral today is destroying tomorrow's fishes."

Jacques Yves Cousteau, after a recent visit to Palawan to examine reefs destroyed by cyanide fishing.

Cyanide fishing is widespread, highly profitable, and causes massive destruction to coral reefs. And it is increasing.

  • Cyanide fishing was formerly used only to gather tropical fish for aquariums. Now the demand for live fish in restaurants in Hong Kong and other Asian centers is driving this devastating practice.
  • Each year, an estimated 330,000 pounds of cyanide is sprayed on Philippine coral reefs alone.
  • Cyanide fishing operations are moving from the over-harvested and devastated reefs of the Philippines to destroy remote and pristine coral reefs in eastern Indonesia, Papau New Guinea, Palau, Tuvalu, the Federated States of Micronesia, and other nations in the Western Pacific.

Why do they do it?

Fishermen can sell live fish, such as grouper, wrasses, rock cod and snapper, to exporters for many times the price of dead fish. The exporters then turn around and demand five times the price they paid for the fish by selling them to foreign luxury live fish markets in Asia. While cyanide fishing is illegal in most nations, many governments do not monitor and enforce restrictions against cyanide use.

What is CORAL doing to help?

  • Making contacts with appropriate government representatives to help develop sound policies for fish harvesting, without cyanide.
  • Promoting dive tourism as an environmentally sustainable alternative to cyanide fishing.
  • Working with other conservation organizations to promote re-training of cyanide fishermen.
  • Gathering used dive gear to be used by re-trained fishermen who do not use cyanide.