Bali is well known for its iconic beaches, rice paddies, yoga retreats and coral reefs, but behind the surf shacks and tourist traps exists a flourishing aquarium fish trade. Since 2004, over 12 million fish have been exported from Indonesia, with half heading to Los Angeles, a quarter to New York City and the remaining spread throughout major US cities. The iridescent apple-green damselfish is the most popular fish transported from Indonesian waters, with the bright-red firefish goby (Nemateleotris magnifica) and electric blue black (Species)and yellow cardinal fish (Species) tagging close behind. Who is responsible for preparing and sending these fish on their trip across the globe? While collectors number in the thousands in Indonesia, only a handful of global exporters exist.
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
Dory is what Conrad’s customers call an “advanced fish”. In ideal aquarium would be at least 150 gallons to support this fish that can grow up to a foot long, and requires specific foods to mimic their natural diet. At Bali Double C, dozens of tanks are meticulously filtered and filled with blue tang awaiting departure for cities across the globe, the majority to Los Angeles, for distribution to US pet stores. As an importer for over a decade, Conrad has seen much change in the aquarium industry, and his industrial facility mirrors this. Demand from the United States was in steady incline from the late nineties until the financial crisis of 2008 - where the average consumer lost their appetite for a sometimes costly aquarium hobby. Today, the trade has mostly recovered with new markets. China for example, is expanding rapidly and over the past twenty years, the global marine aquarium trade has grown five times over, shifting from a fringe-hobby to a global phenomena. Exporting aquarium fish catapults local catch into a global product wanted by millions of people around the world, but nowhere more than Los Angeles, California - our next stop in Dory’s journey.