News / Economy

Aquarium Fish Breeding Program Improves Livelihoods in Cameroon

World Bank-sponsored initiative taps into global ornamental fish industry believed to be worth around $570 million

Aquarium Fish Breeding Program Improves Livelihoods in Cameroon
Aquarium Fish Breeding Program Improves Livelihoods in Cameroon
Kate Thomas

A sustainable aquarium fish-breeding program backed by the World Bank and World Fish Center is improving living conditions for villagers in Cameroon.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans collect exotic aquarium fish and the the global ornamental fish industry is believed to be worth around $570 million.  Many species of popular aquarium fish come from West Africa, specifically the Lower Guinean rain-forest in Cameroon.

Though some species of ornamental fish have been successfully bred in states such as Florida, a sustainable fish-breeding project backed by the World Fish Center is improving livelihoods in rural parts of Cameroon.

Randall Brummett is a senior scientist in Cameroon with the World Fish Center.

"We have set up a network of fishing communities around Southern and Central Cameroon.  Many of the people have small ponds and have been taking part in all different kinds of training programs to improve their handling of the fish," Brummett said.

The World Fish Center's program is the first initiative to pay fishers fair wages.  Brummett said in the past aquarium fish exporters focused too heavily on imagined high profit margins and did not pay enough attention to the care of the fish.

Species such as the shimmering epiplatys, striped barbus jae and the red-toothed pungu are collected in streams and river basins with hand-held nets.  Fishers receive up to 20 cents for each fish.  The catch is then shipped to the United States or Europe for sale in pet stores and specialist aquatic shops.

Brummett said most of the species collected thrive in Cameroon's warm waters.

"Virtually all of them are endemic to the Lower Guinean rain-forest," he said.

The program, which aims to revitalize the local industry, was launched after Brummett received a phone call from a veterinarian at the main airport in Paris.

"The veterinarian at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris called me up one day and said, 'I am constantly getting shipments of ornamental fish from Cameroon and they arrive 90 percent dead," Brummett said.

Aquarium fish companies are paid for the number of live fish that arrive in each shipment. Brummett noticed that many of the companies would hold fish in plastic bags for up to two weeks, compromising their health and mortality rate.

Some funding has been provided by the World Bank for the World Fish Center's project, which aims for a low mortality rate while also sensitizing local authorities on the value of rain-forest river ecosystems and lobbying for their protection.

Brummett said the fish collection areas are spread out all over Cameroon, from the slopes of Mount Cameroon to the borders with Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

"It is important to go and visit all these sites and collect all the fish, but you have to have a storage facility that is big enough to hold fish for a month or two," he said.

The current storage facility, operated in conjunction with the sustainable aquarium fish company Gulf Aquatics, which grew out of the project, is not big enough to hold the amount of fish supplied.  Brummett said the project is lacking funds to reach completion.

"We are trying to expand the program so that rural communities get the most amount of money as possible.  That means cutting out the middleman and lowering profit margins at the center to build a minimum acceptable level," Brummett said.

The initiative's success has been easy to measure.  Many of the companies that paid poor wages have closed after being unable to compete with the survival rate of the World Fish Center's project.

Brummett said the program means that fishers receive a fair wage that allows them to pay for healthcare and school fees, as well as daily living costs.

"They make about five or six times more than they used to, the main reason being that our survival rate is up to over 90 percent now," he said.

The project has improved the quality of life for the aquarium fish that end up in tanks across America, and for the Cameroonian fishers who collect them.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.