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"Buy a fish, save a tree." (LONG)

Shireen Gonzaga <whimbrel at comcast_net> wrote:

>> This is really interesting, I had no idea. I avoid buying
wild-caught fish for environmental reasons. We've
all heard stories about cyanide and explosives used to
harvest reef fish, which is why environmentally-conscious
reefkeepers only purchase aquacultured or tank-raised
(by hobbyists) livestock. It's natural to extrapolate that
reasoning to other aspects of the fishkeeping hobby, which
is why I've always avoided buying wild-caught freshwater
fish. <<

The situation with reef fish is different than it is with most fresh water
fish because of the fact that the methods sometimes used to collect the fish
are damaging to the reef itself.  There are also many other human activities
that impact the reefs, but we KNOW that collecting fish with cyanide or
explosives adds to the damage.  And it's hard to tell at the retail level
which fish have been caught in environmentally friendly ways and which

As far as I know, at this point in time, there are NO species of fresh water
fish that are in danger due to collection for the aquarium trade.  There are
certainly fish that are endangered by other activities, and therefore should
be avoided so as not to add another pressure to the species.  These fish are
protected by CITES.  The dangers to the environment from the aquarium trade
are much more related to the introduction of non-native species.  That is
not a problem that is in any way addressed by avoiding the purchase of
wild-caught fish.

Now Dave K. did make some valid points in his second post.  He said that he
doubts that the cottage industry of aquarium fish collection will save the
rainforest.  I hope he's wrong, but he could be right.  But he picked the
wrong species to take a stand on.  There are certainly species of fish that
we don't know how to spawn, but Cardinals aren't one of them.  It has been
done many times.  They aren't the easiest fish in the world, but neither are
discus.  If the time comes that it is economically advantageous for the
industry to provide captive raised Cardinals, the industry will gear up to
produce them.  We KNOW how.  They will be more expensive than the wild
caught Cardinals available now, but there will still be Cardinals available
for those who want to buy them.

David K also spoke of the losses between the wild and the hobbyist's tank.
This is certainly an ethical dilemma that all of us should wrestle with.
But there are losses between the fish farmers and our tanks also.  There are
also HUGE numbers of fish that die of neglect, mismanagement or ignorance in
the hands of hobbyists every day.  The slaughter doesn't end with the
collectors or exporters.  But the fact remains that NONE of this effects the
wild population of Cardinals.  This has been closely studied, and proven
over a long period of time now.  The work of Project Piaba is supported by
the Brazilian government AND by major public aquariums around the world.  I
gave you all the web site where you can check it out yourself.

Since Project Piaba has proven that the fishing levels are sustainable, they
have broadened their efforts to improving the conditions for the fish during
holding and shipment.  Their goal also is to see the number of fish deaths
reduced as much as possible.  They have already come up with a number of
improvements to the system, and are working to make it better still.  As a
separate post, I have forwarded the letter Dr. Chao sent me in response to
cc'ing him on the earlier post I made to the list.

As a challenging and interesting learning experience, by all means spawn
Cardinal tetras.  Spawn other fish too... It's lots of fun. (At the moment,
I have my 3rd spawn of Farlowella eggs being carefully guarded by Dad on the
front glass of one of my tanks)  It's almost as fun as raising plants ;-)
There are certain species of fish where serious, committed hobbyists are
helping public aquariums doing important work in species maintenance against
the day that a specific environment can be reclaimed to the point that
reintroduction is possible.  The Lake Victoria species maintenance project
is probably the most notable and successful example.

But deciding, categorically, not to buy wild caught fish, is like deciding
not to eat hamburger while wearing leather shoes.  We need to THINK before
we act.  But there is a big difference between USING our natural resources
in a sustainable manner and abusing them.  If the developed world doesn't do
something to help less affluent nations find a way to meet the needs of
their citizens while teaching them the importance of protecting their own
environment, all will be lost.  It doesn't matter what laws are enacted in a
nation's capital if the only way that a family can meet the needs of their
children is by ignoring those laws.  Supporting Project Piaba and the
Amazonian aquarium fish trade is helping people in a way that is
environmentally friendly.  I can't speak directly to the fish collecting
industry in other parts of the world, because I have not been involved first
hand.  But in the case of Cardinal Tetras and the Amazonian fisheries, I do
know.  I have been involved for a number of years now, and have seen the
results first hand.

> Karen's post indicates that this is not a simple issue. What
> is an environmentally-conscious fishkeeper to do? Not all
> of us have time to research which wild-caught fish species
> are appropriate to buy. Does anyone know of a website that
> has this information?

I don't know of a web site.  Maybe someone else does.  There are some basic
rules of thumb, though.  (these are guidelines for FW fish... there are
other considerations for marine fish)

* Don't buy fish that grow large, unless you are SURE you have the
facilities and where-with-all to maintain them properly for their entire
life span.

* NEVER buy CITES fish.  You do still some times see them available, even
though it's against the law.

* Avoid "rare" fish, unless you know for sure that this "rarity" is not
caused by fish being either endangered or a low-population fish in the wild.
  There are fish that are "rare" in the hobby simply because the collectors
don't bother collecting them, even though they are common in the wild.

* If it's a "new" species, and you are a seasoned breeder who can help get
it established in the hobby, go for it.  If you are a novice, give it a

* Probably most important is continue to READ all you can, and THINK about
your choices.  While I don't agree with Dave K's conclusions, I commend him
for putting thought into the issue and raising the question.