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skawdiver

Are aquariums always a bad thing ?

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Whether aquariums are good or bad depends largely on how aggressive and savvy they are at educating rather than just entertaining. It's not that hard for a paying visitor to breeze through an aquarium without reading a single placard or hearing a single word of the educational/interpretive staff (i.e. learning anything at all), all the while telling their kids that an eagle ray is a stingray, a sand tiger is a tiger, a yellowtail is a yellowfin tuna, etc. But kids do seem to learn a lot, often despite their parents' best efforts, and they certainly start to care about marine life by seeing it firsthand. Humans are becoming increasingly separated from other species, so offering opportunities for us to get close to the rest of the world's critters becomes more important. It's pathetic that we have to capture animals and hold them captive in order to remind ourselves of nature, but that's where we're at and I doubt this situation is going to change much. Husbandry of marine organisms also affords us the opportunity to conduct a great deal of research that would otherwise be very difficult, in addition to giving us a chance to restore or maintain populations of threatened species by having "reserves" of them in tanks (either on display or in back rooms). Without public support (ticket sales) it'd be a lot harder to fund some of that work. Aquariums are also home to a number of sustainable fisheries programs, such as Monterey's Seafood Watch program, that are getting people to think about what they order from restaurants and fish markets.

 

As for home aquariums, yeah, they seem pretty ridiculous. I remember watching locals gathering up aquarium fish and giant clams from the reefs in Tonga, to send to the U.S. or wherever. The ironies are numerous. Picture a Hollywood filmmaker with a home aquarium loaded with young giant clams and other Tongan reef animals, and a Tongan aquarium fish gatherer who's used his earnings to buy a VCR so he can watch the Hollywood guy's films. Yay.

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Even though I haven't been to one in years. I suppose I have no big problem with the big aquariums. Or should I say those big aquariums who educate the people who go in to see the marine life. I reckon if any aquariums are selling books on how to keep marine animals or start up your own aquarium, then I would have to say that I'm totally against them. In my mind this is only promoting more live fish traders to feed the growing market.

 

I am totally for aquariums that breed fish, however what I don't like is the fact that I hear some aquariums have animals which simply shouldn't be in there. Why on earth have animals which simply have very limited lifespans in an aquarium. I'm sure most of the animals have limited lifepsans? Though animals like whale sharks, dugongs and the likes are surely nothing more than an attraction for the aquarium to brign in more money. Yeah sure your kid is going to be made up to see a big shark, though is he being told that the shark he is seeing is now becoming a fairly rare animal and not a killer beast like portrayed all over TV and the media?

 

Are the kids being told that the little "Nemo" clown fish are being collected in many places by cyanide, killing lots of reef and that it is better for little Johnny to keep going to the big aquariums rather than trying to keep his own, which is not easy at all. If a message is beign put across then surely aquariums are doing a good job, if there is no message then they should not be allowed!

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Great article in the New York times at the moment - touching precisely on this topic. It comes to an interesting conclusion and puts forth some great points. Read to the end, it's well worth it.

 

Interesting concept about having to see them up close to care - they know more about this than I do, but I remember when I was young all I had to do was see a photo or video (above or below water) to get excited. And I went to an aquarium recently (had not been one in about 7 years) that is suppossed to be one of the better ones and it was incredibly dissapointing on many levels.

 

To me it was dark and depressing and way overcrowded. There were so many Rays in the one exhibit and it appeared to have a cement bottom of some sorts. I know the exhibit is so people can see the ray, and it is probably easier to maintain the tank, but could not shake the feeling that the Rays not being able to burrow into a sandy bottom as I normally see them was wrong.

 

I try to temper these thoughts that the non-divers did seem to respond to some degree to what they were seeing and that the people running these places know alot more the subject than I do and are hopefully ulitmately altruistic in their intentions. Then you read about Ralph and the perforated stomach or airlifting them via UPS - urgh.

 

Thanks for pointing the article out.

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I read that article today, and even being a professional aquarist, I kind of liked it. I agree with the article in most respects. Didn't like/agree with the comment about force feeding being a "common practice" among aquariums, maybe among zoos, having more to do with raising young animals I think.

 

A lot of large public aquariums out there, worldwide and here at home, are a little too "corporate" for me. They just don't focus on the visitor experience enough. One of last lines in the article, about striking an emotional response from visitors, I think that is the most important factor to consider for any facility displaying Earth's flora and fauna. I know I feel it to be my professional responsibility to display animals that cause someone to say "Wow." Unfortunately there just aren't enough facilities out there that focus on that.

 

Also, the point about man improving nature. The oil rigs @ New Orleans was a great example! It was nice to finally have a national voice advocate NOT throwing more crap into the ocean!

Edited by Seriola

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Norton, Georgia Aquarium's (GA) Whale Shark who was delivered along with Ralph {RIP} has been on a feeding tube prior to even Ralph's demise. In addition, the Atlanta Aquarium has applied to Taiwan for two more whale sharks. And Taiwan would like to review the application further. This does sound a bit hypocritical, since supposedly Taiwan raises whale sharks for sushi. Although, my only real education about what Taiwan does with their captured whale sharks comes from recent research and the Georgia's Aquarium's tactfully placed "Saved from Sushi" campaign. Please enlighten me if you know differently.

 

GA is now reporting that Ralph died because he had " a perforated stomach, which an expert said might have been caused by force-feeding through a PVC pipe. He died of peritonitis, an inflammation of the stomach lining."

 

They suspect Ralph's and Norton's initial illness was due to when "workers treated it in 2005 with a chemical to rid it of leeches. Alice and Trixie were still in Taiwan. Ralph and Norton soon stopped eating, prompting the force-feedings."

 

So, 1st - they've been force feeding Norton since both Ralph & Norton became ill at the same time!! 2nd, we MAY have learned that whale sharks don't like chemicals that get rid of leeches. 3rd, they don't like being forced-fed (sarcasm) and so on. Also, within the article it indicates that Trixie & Alice are fine. BTW... Alice & Trixie were delivered a year after Ralph & Norton (June 2005), so hopefully time will not tell another tale.

 

About now I'm probably losing you... here's the official story link (please read between the lines):

 

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/atl...lvaquarium.html

 

WHY HAVEN'T THEY MOVED NORTON from land-locked Atlanta?!? I thought the Georgia Aquarium had research outpost in Savannah, GA or even better move Norton to an Aquarium that has access to the OCEAN.

Edited by terradale

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You've touched on some really important points as to why NOT to build large saltwater aquariums two hundred miles inland :)

I agree with you completely... when I heard about Georgia Aq for the first time, I thought it was a joke... unfortunately it was not.

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I find it particularly rich of the Taiwan Fisheries Agency to be concerned with whaleshark's welfare when the sale of sharks fin is so pervasive in Taiwan. If there is CITES protection, why does Taiwan allow the landing of 30 of them?

Even if buying them doesn't contravene CITES regulations, doesn't taking 4 whalesharks out of the water make it 4 less for breeding in the wild?

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Hi all,

 

I just went to the Atlanta aquarium and checked out their ocean exhibit today. It was pretty impressive!

 

I found it pretty ironic that everyone has raised such concerns about the whalesharks when in the cold-water exhibit, when at the same time, they have 3 beluga whales (BIG SMART mammals) in captivity.

 

Maybe people don't know about the belugas???

 

James

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James

The unfortunate truth is that most people don't know that Belugas and other bigger animals die a fraction of their lifespan in captivity. Still I'm almost ok with it IF there is a healthy wild population.

Whaleshark populations are obviously shrinking. Unfortunately protection comes from the vote worried government, which means the fishermen will get the larger say.

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James, pretty sure the belugas were rescued and/or taken from an inadequate facility. I can't remember the exact details, but it sounded legitimate at the time when a mammalogist explained it to me.

 

Drew, that's a pretty general statement. I know some large marine mammals do just fine in captivity, if not exceed their natural lifespans. A lot of captive animals do, I'm pretty sure the Assoc. of Zoos and Aquariums has some documentation on it.

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It sounds like TWO more whale sharks were approved by the Taiwanese to be "airmailed" to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. Here's the story from the local newspaper - Atlanta Journal Constitution (which allows comments, if you quickly provide a sign-up profile for their marketing purposes. And with my experience, its nothing more/nothing less than that, aka - no spam.)

 

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/atl...halesharks.html

 

Again, my concern is not so much that they are in an aquarium. But, that the Georgia Aquarium is a land-locked facility which is only 263 feet long x 126 feet wide x 33 feet deep. Thirty-three feet deep!! (That's a certification dive.) And to date no emergency plans have been put in place (that I know of) to relocate these sea-roaming passive animals if they do not assimilate to their new environment.

 

Your opinion may be more or less than mine. If you have the time, please let your thoughts be known.

Edited by terradale

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I agree, Luiz! We have two salt-water tanks in my company's offices, and I've had ambivalent feelings about them for several years...knowing how many fish are killed for the few that make it into our tanks really bothers me. Fortunately, the tanks are well established and well serviced, so most of the fish live for several years and seldom need to be replaced. But when we recently needed a couple of new fish, I told the guy who takes care of them that I'd really prefer to only use fish bred in captivity from now on. He got a blank look on his face and said the only species he has heard of that are farm-raised are the little percula-like clowns Luiz mentioned. I asked him to please look into other species, and haven't heard back... I also asked him to look into fish that are "certified" as coming from "humanely harvested" sources, where cyanide is NOT used.

 

I've got a reef tank at home, and had the same reservations about . I asked my local fish stores for "humanely harvested" fish only; they gave me the same blank stare. However, I was eventually able to educate them on it, and get some stock ordered. I also tried to convince them that it was actually worth it to cater to those suppliers; even if they live, fish that have been collected w/ cyanide don't do as well - the stress shortens their life and makes them vulnerable to infection.

 

Thankfully, it's possible to take the moral high ground on live rock and coral, which you can grow yourself. They also have very large live rock and coral farms now. Most of my rock is either home-grown or from farmed sources; all the coral is grown from frags I bought or traded from other aquarists. There are very large groups of like-minded hobbyists; there's little you can't trade for and grow yourself, so both cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

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It sounds like TWO more whale sharks were approved by the Taiwanese to be "airmailed" to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. Here's the story from the local newspaper - Atlanta Journal Constitution (which allows comments, if you quickly provide a sign-up profile for their marketing purposes. And with my experience, its nothing more/nothing less than that, aka - no spam.)

 

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/atl...halesharks.html

 

Again, my concern is not so much that they are in an aquarium. But, that the Georgia Aquarium is a land-locked facility which is only 263 feet long x 126 feet wide x 33 feet deep. Thirty-three feet deep!! (That's a certification dive.) And to date no emergency plans have been put in place (that I know of) to relocate these sea-roaming passive animals if they do not assimilate to their new environment.

 

Your opinion may be more or less than mine. If you have the time, please let your thoughts be known.

 

The counter-question would be, are there other aquariums with the facilities and expertise to handle them. Also, what's the alternative - did you read down to the bottom of the article?

 

"The latest whale sharks bound for Georgia, each weighing about 1,750 pounds, are in a pen in Hualien, a city on Taiwan's east coast. They were part of a 30-shark annual quota set by Taiwan. The other 28 likely will be eaten, officials said."

 

I'd rather get to see them swimming in Atlanta than swimming in garlic sauce.

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The counter-question would be, are there other aquariums with the facilities and expertise to handle them. Also, what's the alternative - did you read down to the bottom of the article?

 

"The latest whale sharks bound for Georgia, each weighing about 1,750 pounds, are in a pen in Hualien, a city on Taiwan's east coast. They were part of a 30-shark annual quota set by Taiwan. The other 28 likely will be eaten, officials said."

 

I'd rather get to see them swimming in Atlanta than swimming in garlic sauce.

 

 

Yes I did read all the way down to the bottom of the article. Still doesn't make it right. Quick death or slowly dying in a land-locked aquarium. What's your choice? Feel free to add 'to be free' as one of the choices.

 

FYI... Another whale shark at the Atlanta based Georiga Aquarium isn't swimming anywhere.

 

Norton was euthanized this morning, Wednesday, June 13th.

 

Link:

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/atl...0613norton.html

 

BTW... this is what a whale shark grows up to be: http://www.prosafari.com/admin%5Cactions%5.../valhaj2-tj.jpg

Edited by terradale

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The new aquarium in Georgia is by all accounts a roaring success .

 

Unless you happen to be a whale shark, and then the Georgia Aquarium is cruel and unusual punishment that is only eased by death.

 

I had the opportunity to get a behind the scenes tour several months before it opened. It was very neat to stand on top of the tank and watch the whale sharks swim right beneath my feet, but it was a sad moment too, as I knew that they would be unable to keep these magnificent creatures alive for very long.

 

Showing schoolchildren a whale shark does absolutely NOTHING to protect those that are still in the wild.

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I hope none of you eat seafood.

 

The capture/collection of marine organisms for seafood is significantly more destructive than the collection of organisms for public (and private) aquariums. There is so much by-catch that basically dies.

 

Also, don't assume that captive breeding programs and even aquaculture are better than wild capture. In both cases they animals have to be fed and most are fed on things harvested from the ocean and may actually cause more impact on wild stocks than wild harvest.

 

Collection for the marine aquarium hobby on the Great Barrier Reef is heavily regulated and regular studies are done on the impact. All the studies show that the impact is negligible and there is a far greater impact from land based agriculture (run-off, etc.) than from direct collection. Additionally, far more coral is destroyed in a single small cyclone than in a years worth of collecting.

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