Sep 30 2010

Ornamental Marine Fish Survival Survey

Coral Magazine recently posted an online survey intended to address survival of ornamental marine fish in their readers tanks. Coral Magazine put this survey out in response to an editorial and book promotion written by Robert Winter and posted on the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society website.

The current survey results are based upon approximately 250-300 responses according to James Lawrence the editor and publisher of Coral magazine. He cautions that Coral readers tend to be high achievers in the marine aquarium keeping world but there also were a few responders that are new to the hobby.

Both items have stimulated a number of interesting responses. I found Dr. Neil Monks response particularly thought provoking.

I encourage you to review the survey results and read the various responses. What’s clear is that the answers are not simple and people are passionate about these issues but that there is much room for improvement when it comes to overall health management of these species from reef to the home tank. I appreciate Coral Magazine’s willingness to delve into this issue and I’ve found the forum discussions to be very interesting.

As with any industry and hobby there are conscientious and unscrupulous players. It is always easy to point fingers but I’m most interested in how we can constantly move to improve the quality of marine ornamental fish health. Parts of the survey begin to get at this but I’d like to hear some suggestions addressing how the industry and the hobby can begin to be more proactive when addressing these issues.

Some questions for discussion:

  • Can there be sustainable harvest?
  • Is aquaculture the answer?
  • If so, what about the many communities that depend upon wild harvest for their livelihoods?
  • Do you think certification is or can be effective?
  • How can we incentivize improved health management throughout the supply chain?
  • How can we better reach hobbyists and instill the importance of quality husbandry?
  • Is it possible to economically insert quarantine and disease screening into the industry?
  • If not, how can we convince hobbyists to set up their own quarantine systems?
  • How would you go about convincing a new  hobbyist to institute quarantine?
  • Can veterinarians play a role here? If so, how? If not, why?
  • If the global veterinary profession could assist the industry and hobby what would be the most appropriate role we should play?
  • Obviously, my focus is on fish health. Feel free to insert other issues into the discussion.

In past posts I’ve been accused of preaching to the choir. That’s fine because I’m interested in your thoughts as active/passionate members of this hobby and industry .  Be creative. Think outside the box.

So, Let’s hear your your thoughts, comments and ideas!! Just be civil!!

3 responses so far




3 Responses to “Ornamental Marine Fish Survival Survey”

  1.   Jim Steitzon 01 Oct 2010 at 6:23 pm

    This year’s sea-temperature data indicates that it could be the second-worst year ever (to 1998) for coral bleaching. While collecting for ornamentals is not a primary threat, it’s also largely not performing the function of an economic alternative that Monks suggests as an upside. From what I’ve read and seen, ornamental collecting still operates sprawling, informal, ad hoc structures, and does not capture or crystallize its socioeonomic benefit in a way that is salient to government officials.

    A parallel might be seen with other industries involved in bringing pricey and ecologically dicey things from poorly governed areas into the US and Europe, such as mahogany or palm oil. In the latter (palm oil), progress is finally being made because NGO pressure is bringing producers, buyers, and users around a common framework, with the understanding that anyone not part of that framework is out of the game, and that fly-by-night freelancers won’t get business.

    The ornamentals industry needs to do the same. It needs to organize itself, leverage its economic influence, and take responsibility for its entire supply chain in the same manner that other American importers do. While it will never have the power that Wal-Mart has to set Bangladesh labor policies with a single phone call from the CEO, it can do much better in giving governments like the Phillippines, Indonesia, etc. reason to choose sustainability.

  2.   Kate Breimayeron 04 Oct 2010 at 12:05 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree that the industry could do better at self regulation, and that as most industries given the opportunity will take the cheaper faster route regardless of long term costs, we need to regulate this industry from the outside.
    I also agree there are good and bad aquarium keepers, plus those who do improve as they get familiar with and attached to their wards. Unfortunately humans seem to need to learn from our own mistakes instead of reading the history widely available from others. There are some people more inclined than others to read in any circumstance, and those peoples’ likelihood at getting good solid information to solve their problems becomes the luck of who they draw at what pet shop they end up asking questions of. If you have ever worked at a fish shop you know it’s a difficult, complex and often thankless job involving hard labor, minimum wage and no health insurance aside from work comp for discrete injuries. It’s no wonder so many of these jobs are filled with inexperienced teens with inadequate information to dispense.
    However, I believe that indigenous peoples who have a reliance on fishing should have the right to continue to fish, and find a market that will pay them enough to give their families a fair standard of living. They are often enough not getting that as it is. We aquarium owners and fish eaters plain up need to pay them more. Why should I have a thousand dollar fish tank while their kids die for lack of clean water to drink? I am not better than anyone else.
    There are long traditions in a number of indigenous peoples of using plant poisons to stun or kill the fish, the goal being to produce food. We should not be surprised then that they might use industrial chemicals to accomplish the same goal. If we want to have reefs not damaged by cyanide, dynamite and other destructive practices we need to educate the locals on the importance of shipping fish that are collected in a safer manner, we need to pay them more, and we need to regulate the sale of dynamite and cyanide.
    The majority of fishing is done for food. Aside from the most profitable and valuable specimens much of the aquarium hobby fish are bycatch or asides during the more profitable collection of food. Only markets that pay a fair price to the collector have specialists who capture aquarium fish, and these places are few. Fish eaters who blame aquarium owners for reef destruction are deceiving themselves, especially the ones who claim to be vegetarian. As there is a thriving market for live fish displayed in the restaurant they will be served in, the food industry ought to also call for an end to dynamite and cyanide fishing, and humane holding and shipping methods.
    Coral should not be collected for building material, road construction, decor, mineral supplements, or landscaping. Most of it is not needed at all in the pet hobby here in Portland OR, I don’t know how it is in other cities but a reef stocked with anything but captive grown coral is now a rarity among people I know. Collecting of coral for any other reason than display in public aquariums and research or to supply a farm with a start of something new ought to be the only reason to collect coral.
    Unfortunately the collection of reef rock remains up for consideration. Currently there is no justification for the majority of it. Enough “used” rock is available due to people moving in this recession to amply supply anyone wanting to set up a tank, and it’s a quarter of the price of fresh rock which may harbor pests and pathogens new even to science. Some aquarists have moved on to mined, aquaculture cycled mined,large shells, and artificial rock to wholly or partly set up their reefs. Others pile so much rock in their new tank that there is no room for coral and 2/3 of it must be sold a few months later at a substantial loss of money and reef. We need to make major inroads in this area.
    Overall if aquarium owners and fish eaters took more care selecting what they consume, how they did so, where it came from and whether or not they even truly need it we could perhaps make a difference. Noone wants to admit they are the drop of rain that caused the flood. Unfortunately the burning of fossil fuels may drop the Ph of the ocean enough to render even climate change and current change obsolete concerns. There again is a place for each individual to do better at reducing our resource consumption. I’d like to believe we are up to the challenge.

  3.   Edward Rueon 11 Oct 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Overall if the owners and fish eaters took more care selecting what they consume, where it came from and whether or not they even truly need it we could perhaps make a difference.

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