We live in time where the environment and the sustainability of our actions are at the forefront of our thoughts. Whether it is simply recycling your waste, wondering how organic your lunch is, or even choosing if your next car will be a hybrid, the world is becoming a ‘greener’ place. But I wonder how many of us take a minute to think about how sustainable our aquarium is, and just what impact we have on the environments we work so hard to re-create.
Now the elephant in the room here is wild caught fish, and as is the case with so many conservation issues, the answer is not as straight forward as ‘leaving them all where they belong’. Countries such as Hawaii, Australia and Fiji are doing a good job at managing their aquarium trade exports, while others still lack any kind of government management scheme.
Many fish that are collected from the wild support local indigenous communities, who rely heavily on them for income and therefore safe guard the population and their habitat to ensure trade continues. The question here is how do we as hobbyists ensure the fish we purchase come from well-managed, sustainable sources and that our actions are not causing population or eco-system damage.
Tank Bred & traceable source.
The first thing that we can do is to try and purchase tank bred species where possible. I am sure that most of us are aware that 80-90% of freshwater species are sustainably bred and raised in an eco friendly, captive environment. But even here there are exceptions. Species such as the Cherry Barb and Galaxy Rasbora have in the past suffered severely depleted numbers in the wild.
Whilst captive breeding is now successful, arming yourself with species knowledge, history and source before making a purchase is essential. On the saltwater side of things, the percentages are not even close, with the majority of all species still being wild caught. While the list of tank bred species available continues to rise, thanks to the hard work of institutions such as Rising Tide Conservation and the Hawaii base Oceanic Institute, there is still a long way to go. Prices for certain fish may be higher than their wild caught counterparts yes, but we must ask ourselves; - is the knowledge that you are buying a fully sustainable fish, fed on manufactured foods, free from illness and accustomed to the kind of water parameters your aquariums is likely to operate at not worth those extra pounds?
So what about the species for which captive breeding has not yet been cracked? Should these be completely avoided or are there purchases that support the trade, wild conservation and captive breeding at the same time? The answer is yes! Ensuring that we purchase from a shop that uses an ecologically minded livestock suppliers is one way to be confident in your purchase. Remember do not be afraid to ask your LFS who and where their stock is from. Research here seems to be key!
Is it just fish?
So is it just the impact removal of fish species have on an environment, or should be worried about more? Live rock is one subject that springs to mind. While small in comparison to the impact fishing for a world-wide food industry has on a reef, the collecting of live rock from an established reef effects every level of reef life, removing habitat, food sources and causing pollution. Now that some of the larger companies out there are manufacturing high quality, man-made alternatives that are available in beautiful shapes, hitchhiker free and that have never seen the ocean, surely you would be mad to use anything else.
The same goes for coral species. With advances in every aspect of fragging continuing to be propelled forward by a push for affordable examples, there is a real possibility that we will see the level of corals removed from the wild similar to what we see in the freshwater fish market one day.
There are also advances in coral breeding too. Whilst in its infancy, projects such as Project Coral, based at the Horniman Museum in London, are really pushing the boundaries. Being the first institution globally to successfully and predictably induce broadcast coral spawning is ground breaking. Whilst research such as this opens up opportunities to examine the effects climate change and ocean acidification has on wild reefs, imagine what this knowledge could mean for the industry in years to come.
So what’s the outcome . . .
As with every other part of our lives, the aquarium hobby will ironically have no choice but to focus on becoming greener. The more aware of the environment people are, the more this subject is going to brought up by newcomers, and I personally believe this is no bad thing.
The more the more we think about that slice of wild beauty we all strive to recreate, the more we learn and the longer this wonderful hobby will continue.
Here at Charterhouse Aquatics we strive to offer a wide range of tank bred species to help relieve pressure on wild stocks.
By choosing our tank bred fish over a wild fish you are helping us to support the breeders and their