About Us


"Walt Smith International Ltd" was established in 1973 in Los Angeles, California. At that time Walt recognized a need in the market for "hand picked" superior quality aquatic specimens for the growing aquarium market in the United States. Situating himself in Los Angeles amongst the worlds largest wholesalers of marine life, he soon established the first "hand picked" service that is widely copied today. Walt realized that retail stores around the country sometimes had difficulty receiving the variety and quality they needed to become successful in the rapidly growing marine aquarium market. When a retail store called Walt their variety and quality was greatly increased by the fact that Walt was able to easily travel between wholesalers until the order was complete and each specimen personally selected for quality by Walt himself. For the next 17 years "Walt Smith International" continued to build a reputation of superior quality and variety as he lived up to his advertising motto "There’s no better way to receive your marine life ….. there just isn’t!".

In 1989 Walt saw an opportunity to follow his dream and relocate to The Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific. At first it was a difficult move for his wife and two daughters to give up all that is familiar and comfortable in the United States and start life over in a foreign country where life was simple and common "necessities" were either unavailable or rare. Walt’s extensive knowledge of the industry added to his long established relationship with the Los Angeles wholesalers proved to be the winning combination they needed to succeed. Tonga soon became a recognized source of superior quality specimens as Walt continued to discover new items for the industry. The next 7 years proved that hard work and dedication to provide high quality, unusual specimens is what the industry needed for the ever increasing and demanding "mini reef tank" market.

As the demand for high quality products grew it became obvious that airline space out of The Kingdom of Tonga was simply not enough. The reputation of healthy and interesting livestock from ‘Walt Smith International" was spreading throughout the industry. In 1995 Walt was invited to come to Fiji by the Fiji Fisheries Dept. to help set an example of "best practice" for an emerging industry in their country. After exploring the possibilities of relocating the head office to either New Zealand or Fiji for a re-export station Walt soon decided that Fiji would be the most suitable location. The move to Fiji would allow the company to realize Walt’s goal of becoming the first regional distribution center in the South Pacific. Shortly after establishing himself in Fiji Walt designed the worlds first live rock holding and curing system that has made the Fiji live rock the most sought after product of it’s kind in the world today.

Walt Smith International Ltd. has made a strong commitment to the Fiji economy and environment. The company has invested over $2,500,000.00 in a state of the art facility and employs over 250 people in the warehouse and outlying villages. They have trained locals in sustainable harvest technique to provide the company with live and healthy product. WSI has been instrumental in establishing several cottage industries that work closely with the company and follow it’s guidelines regarding sustainable and low impact harvest. The company also imports from several other stations in the region adding value to the Fiji import dollars and local services.

The year 1999 has seen has seen new innovations and frontiers for Walt Smith International Ltd. In May of 1998 Walt contracted a reef scientist to "plant" several hundred pieces of tiny fragmented coral pieces in a specially selected bay in one of the villages that have been working with the company since the beginning. In May of 1999 samples from the "farm" were harvested and brought into the main facility in Lautoka. It was then discovered that the selected pieces had grown too large for export purposes in just one year’s time. WSI is currently developing a land based farm project to become "phase two" in the process. Walt has made arrangements to provide space and a working lab for students from the "University of the South Pacific" to learn, study and contribute along with our own staff about this new and exciting field. Walt believes that this fits in well with his philosophy of sharing with science what the hobby is learning from the sea at a rapid rate. On this farm there are plans to work with and develop live corals, algae, live rock and clams to name just a few. In the future WSI also has plans to learn more about post larval fish rearing which is just beginning to emerge as a viable alternative to a percentage of wild caught specimens.

Working closely with Government, Fisheries, Science and the local villages, Walt hopes to create a better understanding of what the Marine Aquarium Industry means to the local economy as well as to the environment. It should be recognized that without the support of all parties involved the future of sustainable harvest to benefit the economy and additional projects such as the coral nursery would cease to be explored and developed.

As part of this, Walt has initiated the first privately funded community workshops that hope to bring better awareness to the general public concerning all matters that involve the reef and it’s many uses. The "Education and Awareness of Marine Environments Project" (E.A.M.E.P.) is very close to the company’s policy of sharing what it has learned. Another important contribution to the future of the marine ecosystem is the development of the "Marine Aquarium Council" with its head office in Hawaii. Walt serves on the board as a member of the advisory council. MAC is concerned with making sure that exporters around the world are following strict guidelines that involve issues such as sustainable harvest and best practice technique in collection, handling and shipping of marine life for the aquarium trade. One of the goals of MAC is to establish a certification system that would allow only those who receive a MAC certification to export their products.

Another aspect of education and awareness is the open invitation to the schools to visit the facility. When schools arrive, there is a special display area where Walt and/or his wife Deborah alongside company staff will lecture and allow the children to experience first hand the wonders of the sea. Sometimes there are as many as five school visits per week that last up to several hours each. Walt feels this is one way to help ensure reef awareness when the children grow up: to show and explain when they are young will last forever in their minds and we hope to create for them a meaningful experience when they visit WSI.

THE main focus of Walt Smith International will always be to share and care for the living world, create benefit to the local economy, insist on sustainable and careful use of the resource and work together with science and industry to gain a better understanding of our marine ecosystem.

Today Walt Smith International is recognized as one of the leading sources of high quality marine life as it supplies the world market. Although they have grown to a substantially larger size than originally conceived both Walt and Deborah remain highly active and involved in the company’s daily activities and have created a wonderful, peaceful lifestyle for their family in the most beautiful country in the South Pacific.


Copyright © 2002 Walt Smith International Ltd.