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 "Theres no better way to receive your
.. there just isnt!".
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. Walts 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"
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 Walts
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 its 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 its 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 years 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 its
many uses. The "Education and Awareness of Marine Environments
Project" (E.A.M.E.P.) is very close to the companys 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
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 companys daily activities and have created a wonderful,
peaceful lifestyle for their family in the most beautiful country
in the South Pacific.