Are Saltwater Tanks Even Ethical?

iWoodsman
  • #1
NOT CRITICIZING OR JUDGING...until I know more.
I am a freshwater enthusiast who has been dreaming of a reef tank for years. I’ve been following the reports of destruction of reefs for years, but I didn’t draw any significant connection to the hobby, and have only recently become aware of the differences in how fresh and marine fish are sourced. The majority of freshwater fish are farmed, and there seem to be few voices complaining of environmental degradation in the freshwater world. But I have recently read some very critical treatments on marine and reef aquariums because 1. The vast majority (98%) of marine and reef animals are collected in the wild and 2. The collection methods often do significant harm to the coral.
I haven’t looked into how coral itself arrives to LFS, wild or farm-grown.

I have two questions: as individuals, what are your thoughts about the possibility that our hobby could be on shaky ground from an environmental position, and, have any of you ever explored this issue with an LFS, just for info?
I want the answer to be, “no worries, the coral is never broken off a wild reef, and the fish...” I don’t know what to expect.

Again, please don’t think I’m looking for a fight from a lofty position. I do plenty of ethically suspect things, like eating endangered eels or intelligent octopi. Thanks for your opinions!
 
Demeter
  • #2
A good portion of saltwater fish and inverts are indeed wild caught and sometimes in less than pleasant ways. If you search youtube for "tropical fish collecting" or "reef fish collecting" you can see some of the methods. Some use tiny hand spears that will penetrate into the fish's back under the dorsal fin but above the spine. Other methods are setting up small nets and chasing the fish into the net, yet another method uses a chemical that sedates/stuns the fish allowing for easy collecting. The chemical method is the one that harms the corals the most IMO. It is unpleasant but it does create jobs for the locals in that area, and so long as there is demand for tropical fish there will always be people collecting them.

While freshwater ecosystems are of less concern than the oceans, there is definitely problems going on. The African rift lakes are perhaps of the highest concern for freshwater ecosystems.
 
Jesterrace
  • #3
It's kind of a catch 22. On the one hand, yes we are ripping fish and some corals out of their natural environments (although many corals are produced by farms these days). That said however, there is a fast growing captive bred branch for saltwater fish, corals and inverts these days. In addition by keeping them in captivity we learn more about their requirements and have developed techniques for transplanting corals and at least on a smaller scale bringing reefs back to life over time. Personally I believe that rising sea temperatures and decreased salinity has far more effect on marine life than any bad habits practiced by people sourcing aquarium stock and the fish that they are picking up are almost always those listed as "Least Concern" on the endangered species list.

Here are some of the companies working on changing things in the aquarium industry:


https://www.orafarm.com

Oh and the majority of clownfish (arguably the most sought after and popular saltwater fish) are captive bred these days
 
TexasDomer
  • #4
If you want to be responsible, you can buy only aquarium bred fish and corals for your Saltwater tank.
 
Culprit
  • #5
Although, sustainable harvesting would make all the difference. The problem with captive bred corals and fish is that they create a huge carbon footprint, which in turn raises the temp of the ocean. (I know small scale but everything helps). What would be best would be if there were regulations installed, such as a harvest limit per day, maximum/minimum size req, eithical catching practices, stuff like that. Also if we installed small areas of each reef that would be let to grow wild to keep the fish that were strongly affected by unethical catching methods to recover and start spreading back. I actually wrote a 10 page paper on this if you guys want a link.
 
stella1979
  • #6
Although, sustainable harvesting would make all the difference. The problem with captive bred corals and fish is that they create a huge carbon footprint, which in turn raises the temp of the ocean. (I know small scale but everything helps). What would be best would be if there were regulations installed, such as a harvest limit per day, maximum/minimum size req, eithical catching practices, stuff like that. Also if we installed small areas of each reef that would be let to grow wild to keep the fish that were strongly affected by unethical catching methods to recover and start spreading back. I actually wrote a 10 page paper on this if you guys want a link.
Yes please... Do link is your paper C.
 
Miaw
  • #7
For people who don't believe in carbon-shaming (lol) captive bred corals are great
 
aussieJJDude
  • #8
I know that in Australia, its a massive push for many of the salt water hobbyists with captive bred verts and inverts. A large majority of things for sale is intact captive bred from what I have found.

I will mention that in the past, freshwater fish use to be vastly wild caught, and many species are still in fact wild caught - think kuhlI loaches. Over time, the freshwater hobbyists habe increased success in aqua, and IMo similar can be said for marine organisms as a lot of captive bred fish today wasn't normally captive bred a few years back.
 
Culprit
  • #9
For people who don't believe in carbon-shaming (lol) captive bred corals are great

Haha. I'm not saying all captive bred, hobbiest bred corals are amazing as that's already going to be carbon. But, it would be better to sustainably harvest corals in the wild then big huge captive bred coral farms. But, not as much for corals but more for fish.

Yes please... Do link is your paper C.

Here ya go: Colin's Paper
 
TexasDomer
  • #10
Haha. I'm not saying all captive bred, hobbiest bred corals are amazing as that's already going to be carbon. But, it would be better to sustainably harvest corals in the wild then big huge captive bred coral farms. But, not as much for corals but more for fish.



Here ya go: Colin's Paper

Do you have a source for the "huge" carbon footprint of captive breeding fish and corals? You don't mention carbon footprint in your paper.
 
iWoodsman
  • Thread Starter
  • #11
For me, the more pressing issue is not the contribution of the destruction of marine ecosystems to global warming; it is the destruction of those ecosystems themselves. Most marine biologists that work with coral reefs are pretty dire as they show how the world's coral is rapidly bleaching due to climate-change based acidification of the oceans. I don't know if the hobbyist mining of coral is a big or small threat, but it doesn't help. I was in my LFS yesterday and the owner was there but I chickened out of bringing up the topic. The word "Reef" is in the name of the store!
 
TexasDomer
  • #12
A few years back I saw a talk by a coral researcher at a small symposium. She showed before and after pictures of the reefs they study - it only took a few years for the majority of the coral and fish to die. It was heartbreaking.
 
Culprit
  • #13
No, I didn't include it as I was mainly focusing on the benefits of farming wild and installing regulations on that to make it good for everything.
 
TexasDomer
  • #14
No, I didn't include it as I was mainly focusing on the benefits of farming wild and installing regulations on that to make it good for everything.
Do you have a source for your claim though? I'd like to read more into it.
 
Culprit
  • #15
Here's my sources. Also, aquaculture is good, in small amounts. Right now aquaculture is good and will heal the reefs, but once the reefs are healed or in the process of healing and not in a downward spiral we need to stop, as global warming, pollution, and ph raising will destroy reefs just as fast.

References
 
TexasDomer
  • #16
Here's my sources. Also, aquaculture is good, in small amounts. Right now aquaculture is good and will heal the reefs, but once the reefs are healed or in the process of healing and not in a downward spiral we need to stop, as global warming, pollution, and ph raising will destroy reefs just as fast.

References

Thanks for the references, but I didn't see anything about aquaculturing coral having a huge carbon footprint (I didn't see any references to the environmental negatives of breeding coral or marine fish, other than the problem with fisheries, but that's a whole separate thing).
 

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