Taxonomically constrained reporting framework limits biodiversity data for aquarium fish imports to Australia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Context: Biological resource use represents the most common direct threat to biodiversity. Despite this, there is a paucity of comprehensive and overarching data relating to the biological resource use. The global aquarium trade encompasses millions of individual live fishes representing thousands of marine and freshwater species traded on an annual basis. The lack of specific data systems for recording information where fish are exported or imported has resulted in limited accessible trade data. An evaluation of the data-reporting frameworks presently employed by countries engaged in the aquarium trade is warranted to better understand the means by which comprehensive data on the aquarium trade can be made more accessible. Aims: This study examines the data-reporting framework of The Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) used to collate aquarium fish import data, and its capacity to inform on the aquarium trade biodiversity imported to Australia. Methods: Aquarium import records from 2010-16 were provided by DAWR and used to determine the quantity of individual fishes and consignments imported to Australia. The potential biodiversity of imports was determined from the Australian Government's List of Permitted Live Freshwater/Marine Fish Suitable for Import 2018 (Number 69, F2017C00079), the legislative document identifying species permitted import to Australia for the aquarium trade. Species permitted import were cross-referenced with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List to address whether the Australian aquarium trade is importing threatened species. Key results: A total of 10 320 consignments encompassing more than 78.6 million aquarium fishes were imported to Australia between 2010 and 2016. A total of 4628 species of fishes were permitted import to Australia for the aquarium trade with 73 of the marine species (2.0%) and 81 of the freshwater species (7.5%) found to be threatened with some degree of extinction risk. The data-reporting framework for aquarium fish imports offered limited capacity to taxonomically differentiate imports and only 12.5% of all aquarium fishes imported could be identified to species. Conclusions: The aquarium fish import records provided by DAWR had limited taxonomic resolution and, consequently, limited capacity to contribute to an improved understanding of the biodiversity imported to Australia for the aquarium fish trade. While more detailed information is available than is presently collated by DAWR, the availability of this information is constrained by the laws around protected information and the resources available to DAWR. Implications: Accessible, detailed information on aquarium fish imports is necessary to support comprehensive research capable of addressing threats to biodiversity loss from the aquarium trade. To this end, the means by which Australian aquarium import data can be reported at greater taxonomic resolution under the existing legislative and resource restraints should be explored further.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-363
Number of pages9
JournalWildlife Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Taxonomically constrained reporting framework limits biodiversity data for aquarium fish imports to Australia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this