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chilbal

capturing coral reef fish for aquariums

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Posted (edited)

Coral reef fish is big business. Trade in coral, fish and other marine animals reaches hundreds of millions $ a year.

About 98% of coral reef fish cannot be bred in captivity. Therefore, there is a great fishing for living fish.

In many places fishermen use the poison cyanide to catch the fish. The diver injects the poison in to the caves, the fish is hiding in, and when the fish is stunt, It’s easy to haul it out. But fish can be damaged by the poison. The cyanide can cause eye damage or damage to the internal organs of the fish.

Another consequence is that the surroundings - the coral polyps, the shrimps, the crabs and all the other organisms on the reef are damaged or perhaps even can die from the poison.

So it's a very destructive way to catch fish.


In our work on a documentary about coral reefs, we had the opportunity to dive with some guys in Kenya, which cast the fish in a sustainable way. Here a little music video from there work.
 

 

 

Edited by chilbal

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This is the lesser of two evils.  Cyanide poisoning for aquarium fish causes complete devastation to corals and invertebrates whose body mass cannot handle the cyanide load.  Wild caught fish also have a markedly decrease lifespan in captivity and new advances in fish and invertebrate reproduction have made aquacultured corals and fish easily accessible and leaves wild fish in the ocean.  If we could convince all salt water fish owners to only buy aquacultured fish and corals the worlds ocean would be a much healthier spot. I unfortunately stand on my soapbox as a remorseful prior saltwater fish owner.

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Posted (edited)

)Agreed - aquaculture-bred fish are at least more sustainable than fish caught in the wild.

Having said this, there is a new train of thought that is making it's way through the aquarium trade - much like keeping wild animals as pets is now thought by most to be completely unethical, so is keeping any salt-water fish in aquariums (outside of institutions focused on education, awareness, or research). 

Many people on this forum would be appalled at someone who kept a domesticated cheetah, why keep a domesticated clownfish?

Salt water aquariums should be a thing of the past - we have enough access to the wild versions to not need them in our homes anymore.

 

Edited by oneyellowtang

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Posted (edited)

Hi,
the difference is,
that clownfish is the easiest home breed fish in salt water....
And needs less space for swimming than the most others...
The percentege of land breeded reef fish is getting higher each year, because of aquarian people, trying a lot of species....
The problem is that breeded animals are allways more expensive than wild catch...

We have now 4 salt water tanks at home, was much more then we did breeding shrimp and trying fish....
We also grow corals, some for a public aquarium....

Dont know how somebody says a wild catch fisch is not long living in a tank.
From our first 4 fishes, we gave the couple clownies away. The other two were a couple of Chrysiptera parasema, who laid often eggs,
and a friend of us was able to breed some of them. First in europe! One of these two is still in our tank, after 13 years.
How long do you think they live in the ocean?

By the way, the most poison catched fish die within months in a tank, because of the inner organs that were damaged!

The point is how you ceep them.
There should bee a licence for tank keepers, like a driving licens.
But movies like Finding nemo opened a rush for salt water tanks, and the industrie brought new technic and sold it as easy....

We decided to have a tank, to get a piece of the ocean in our flat. And we bought books and gathered information as much as possible before we started. as it should be.
The same as any pet owner should do.
We never had atang, even not in 750 liters. Not suitable we think.

But we can show the beauty of the sea to friends and familie and others, and get these people interested in saving the sea!

Regards,
Wolfgang
 

PS: do you think eating sea fish is better than keeping one?

Edited by trimix125

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Wolfgang,

I completely agree with you that to keep any animal including salt water fish and corals intensive research should be done, while I would like to see people proof basic knowledge or have license I don't think that would ever happen.  I agree that farm raised fish are more expensive than wild caught but I think simply if you cant afford the farm raised one then dont buy the wild caught one.  It is estimated that 70-90% of wild caught fishes dont even make it to the tank as they they along the way, so I think its fair to say that wild caught fish do have shorter lifespans than farm raised fish. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/tropical-depression-your-saltwater-fish-tank-may-be-killing-the-ocean/

Of course there are exceptions as you have pointed out with your fish.  The lifespan of saltwater fish, either farm raised or wild caught is also dependent on the caretaker and given the lifespan of your fish I suspect you are quite knowledgeable and do a great job. 

 

To answer your provocative question regarding whether it is better to keep fish v eat them I would say that it depends on the fish and how it was caught.  A fish that is not threaten that you caught yourself is a lot less ecologically damaging than an aquarium fish caught with cyanide.  Of course the argument is reversed when you compare dynamite fishing/long line/gill net to a farm raised aquarium fish.   I am vegetarian, I turned vegetarian a few years ago for environmental reasons, not moral or health reasons. I will still eat occasional fish/meat but only under certain circumstances such as fish I catch myself. 

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Hi,
agree with your answer.
Cyanid is killing to much and should be forbidden.
Catching with small nets works as well.

Another point is, that the catchers, who get mayby a few cent per fish, can feed their families.
So the reef gets a higher value for them.
If not, they would use dynamite to catch food.
What still happens in the philippines and other places...

The price of fish or coral is the sales point in a shop.
Our sexy shrimps / dancing shrimp, needs 6 months before you can give them away.
Need food a lot, waterchanges, ....
We asked for 9.-Euro, but the shops buy them for half of it.....
Ideas like a corner with breeded fish and shrimp and coral found no use...

License is or can be a good idea.
But its the same with underwater fotografie.
I have seen guys with expensive equipment, laying in the middle of a reef for a good shot.
After the shot, they kik the anikal with their fins, to get the next position a guide shows them....

Last february we have seen a bunch of divers in Bohol, that should do a bouancy course, or maybe we should found a
"how a fotografer should dive without harming the underwaterworld..." license...

Regards,
Wolfgang

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Wolfgang,

The question isn't if raised aquarium fish are better/worse for living reefs then fish caught in the wild. That's obvious...

The real question is - for anyone like us (underwater photographers) is there any reason to even have salt water aquariums? You have access to the ocean and these beautiful fish & creatures through your hobby (or if you are lucky, your job). By supporting the aquarium trade at all you become part of the challenge - you're just willing to buy into the trade at a higher price point  (for raised fish vs. wild-caught). It's still supporting a market that fundamentally hurts the fish we love seeing in the wild.

Outside of public education or research, we are getting to a point where there is no need for private salt water aquariums to exist. Public zoos are going the same way (although they are playing a much larger role in species' DNA storage & diversity for preproduction these days - by necessity). 

200 years ago shell collections were incredibly important for scientists to study biodiversity - today, private shell collections are (mostly) frowned upon (if collected in the wild - vs washing up on a beach). 

Times change.

 

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I should have mentioned one other important thing.

Public (or research) aquariums (like the Monterey Bay Aquarium) collect their own fish or use licensed scientific specimen collectors that leverage ethical collection methods. There are some (smaller) aquariums that do buy species on the open market - if you find one of these, you should absolutely send an email to their executive director letting them know they are supporting the destruction of the very environment they put on display.

 

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Hi,
i live in austria, middle of europe,
so the next sea ( not an ocean ) is min. 6 hour drive. And thats the flat sandy part, with no foto possibilities.
I run my own compay, nothing with tanks or fotography,
and i am happy if i get more than 2 weeks of holiday a year, 3 weeks is max!
So the saltwater tanks are our ocean for almost all of the year....
And the same as a dog or cat for other people. We have no tv at home, but 4 different programs, just have to change the room ;-))
Also outdoor is a 200l tank with zooplankton for foodenrichment.

We got friends with the boss of the salty part of the public aquarium here in the capitel, and we have been on a trip to Monaco with him, changing animals, and catching some for the mediterian tank they built here. Was great to see how they work there, and to get in contact with that people.
They get corals for free from us, home grown.
And sometimes ideas, because that is a big factor in the scene.
Public tanks follow the sientific news, but sometimes the private keepers are much further, and have solved problems that have even not shown up in publik tanks. Simply because there are more people that get the same problem and try much more different ways to solve it.
Specially with breeding fish and growing coralls, the private keepers were much further. And its funny to read how great the solution of a public tank is, that is used for years from private keepers.
The problm is easy:
Scientist would never accept a  solution from not scientists....
It takes long to show them what works and why....

What means no need for?
If i would live close to the sea, i would have a small tank to watch interesting animals for a couple of days and then set them back in the ocean. This i cannot do here, so i have to set up an artificial ocean, as good as i can, and we try hard!, to produce a good home for our animals.

We have always a small plastik box for camera gear with us, that we use as tank on holidays.
Collect seegras an the shore that the wind and storm have taken to the shore and look what is living in and on.
Got strange views then we trought dozends of sea rabbits ( nudies )back in the sea after a storm, that were pushed on the beach..

The tank industrie is not a big fan of mine ;-))
In the austrian saltwater forum my girl friend and i are mods.
And we say what we think. No big fishes, not all the problem safers, take it slow and read and ask.....
Think twice before you buy animals, and what can happen and what you have to do to keeping them...
Most of our technic is second hand, only glas is new because of security reason.

Only my personal view ;-))

Regards,
Wolfgang

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Great that our film has provided an interesting discussion.

I find the questions “is it ok to keep fish in aquarium” and “what is the mortality compared to fish in the sea” very interesting –

Kdgonzalez the article you link to, with the quote “Estimates suggest that 70 to 90 percent of captured fish die before they ever reach a tank, and more perish within their first six months in captivity”.

 

The article is from 2012 and it seems to me, that the estimate is based on cyanide fishing.
The kind of fishing we filmed, where divers caught the fish with nets dos not harm the fish internal organs like cyanide fishing.

As I understood the owner of the company in Kenya, they have very little mortality on their fish and as Wolfgang mention – the locals get another kind of awareness for the local reefs.

The owner told me a story, about a fisherman who caught a small black tip shark, and he knew that he could get a much better price to sell it to the company instead of selling on the fishmarket. So he filled water in the boat, and swam beside the boat because he was afraid to be together with a shark in his boat. And if that shark can live 10 – 15 years or maybe more in a aquarium and thus inform the public about life in the seas, it´s fine with me.
Because I don´t think , as one wrote, that we have enough access to the wild, and therefor don’t need aquariums and zoo´s anymore. The constant relocation to the big cities is moving people further and ´further away from nature.

 

 

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Chilbal (& Wolfgang),

I know these are supposed to be respectful & polite forums however I (respectfully) completely disagree, and I also believe you are looking at this issues too simplistically.

For example: when fish are caught (with nets or cyanide or by any other mechanism) they are shipped in small bags of water (inside packing boxes) in the bellies of planes to whatever wholesaler is paying for the fish. The death rate of shipping reef fish in boxes like this is over 50% (I know this because I had a friend who ran a business in this space on 4 islands in the Pacific (for the N. American, Japanese, and Korean markets) - he let the business die after 3 years when he couldn't find economical ways of reducing the mortality rate. Wholesalers pay for live fish only - so collectors will always ship 2x-3x the number of fish ordered to make sure they fulfill their orders - they expect a high % of die off in transportation (due to stress, overheating, lack of oxygen, lack of food, etc.)

Then add in the mortality rate for shipping to either retail or end customers, which is another 10%-20%.

A huge number of fish are being taken off the reefs so that some people can watch these "pretty fish" in their tanks in their living rooms. Anyone who supports this trade and is also an underwater photographer is at a minimum a hypocrite, and more likely just selfish.

I'll say it again - if you believe that it is unethical to keep a Cheetah as a pet, then there should be no reason in keeping reef fish in a private aquarium. 

Collectors for public aquariums are a totally different breed - and in many cases work for the aquariums themselves (like the Monterey Bay Aquarium) - in many countries they have to maintain a scientific specimen collection license, and must agree to a standard of ethical collection (and husbandry) practices. 

If you care about the reef don't maintain a private aquarium -go support your public aquarium instead.

 

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Well said oneyellowtang!!!

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