Collection of live coral for the marine aquarium trade has increased significantly in recent years, causing concerns over the ecological implications of this activity for the source regions. The Spermonde Archipelago off Southwest Sulawesi is one of the four major ornamental coral collection sites in Indonesia, the country supplying most corals in the trade. Management of the fishery remains ineffective, and overharvesting is widespread. Conservation strategies for marine resources increasingly emphasize the socioeconomic dimensions of resource use, yet little information is available on the livelihoods of fishermen involved in the ornamental fishery. Here, a first analysis of the livelihoods of coral fishermen in the Spermonde Archipelago is presented, along with a discussion of possibilities for future management interventions. The reef fishery of the study area is characterized by a high diversity of target organisms, with none of the fishermen relying exclusively on ornamental corals for income. Moreover, fishermen are organized in a tightly knit web of patron–client relationships, leaving little scope for them to initiate changes in livelihood strategies. The patron–client system emerged as a key institution of the fishery. In order to support sustainable marine resource use, management policies should simultaneously target the fishermen and their patrons as well as the regional coral trade network, broadening the livelihood portfolio of island communities and improving the regulation of the associated trade network.
AWI Organizations > Knowledge and Technology Transfer > Earth System Knowledge and Platform