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By: Sylvia Spalding, Marine Aquarium Council

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(Honolulu, Hawaii) - In response to growing concern over the sustainability of marine ecosystems, the Marine Aquarium Council (MAC) is promoting the first-ever certification initiative for fish and other marine-life used in the hobbyist trade. In January 2003, MAC debuted its promotional initiative by co-hosting the Marine Aquarium Hobbyist Day at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif.

Along with 80 experts worldwide, MAC developed international environmental and quality standards for harvesting, handling and transport of the marine-life that are ultimately kept in tanks at home, business offices and public venues. Once a supply stream is checked by MAC and is found to be in compliance with these standards, exporters, importers and retailers can be authorized to sell "MAC Certified" organisms. The MAC label serves as a sign to buyers that these marine organisms have been harvested and handled responsibly to minimize harm to the ecosystem and optimize the health of the organisms.

"Marine aquarium hobbyists and public aquariums are both concerned about the sustainability of marine ornamentals and the coral reefs they come from," notes MAC Executive Director Paul Holthus. "This marks the first time aquarium hobbyists will be able to select aquatic organisms based on a clear, recognizable stamp of approval."

Organisms bearing the MAC label must be collected from areas with reef management plans. The certification also guarantees organisms were collected by fishermen trained in using non-destructive harvesting methods and proper post-harvest care.

"When properly handled, delicate marine creatures have better survival chances in captivity, and the proper handling of living creatures is both ethical and consistent with aquarists' concern for their welfare," explains Julian Sprung, co-author of the popular guide The Reef Aquarium and keynote speaker at the January event.

"After retailing for over 20 years, MAC is the first opportunity we've had to be involved with a complete market distribution network; that makes me proud to be a retailer," notes Rick Preuss, owner of Preuss Animal House, a MAC Certified retail store in Haslett, Mich. "Having the assurance that these animals were caught and handled properly before they come under my care makes me a lot more comfortable when I sell them to my customers. For some more delicate organisms, I would rather wait for a MAC Certified one than have ones in stock that were not."

Upcoming throughout 2003, activities will be held at public aquariums and other venues across the United States and Europe to get the word out about MAC Certified marine-life.

About Marine Aquarium Council

MAC is an international not-for-profit organization dedicated to protecting coral reefs by setting standards and certification for the global marine aquarium trade. For more on MAC Certification, and a list of MAC Certified marine aquarium companies, visit the MAC website at www.aquariumcouncil.org.

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