Wild Caught vs. Aquarium Breeding Controversy Heats Up
by Tom Lang
The Breeder’s Registry has been promoting aquarium breeding of marine fishes and invertebrates since 1992. From the very beginning, there were those in the hobby who expressed concern that if we increased the domestic production of these animals to a great extent, the fishers on the coral reefs would be out of work. Here we are 18 years later and the importation of wild caught aquarium fish and coral still continues to increase. Yet the controversy persists.
Over at Reef Builders, Matt Pedersen, the ousted founder of MOFIB (Marine Ornamental Fish & Invertebrate Breeders), flushed out Dr. Andrew Rhyne, a Roger Williams University researcher, and learned first-hand how some prominent people in the industry actually continue to be critical of aquarium propagation efforts because of perceived negative impacts on sustainable collection initiatives such as Papua New Guinea’s SEASMART program.
When the Breeder’s Registry tried to contact Dr. Rhyne last year to obtain some information on his ground-breaking breeding of the Queen Triggerfish in cooperation with the New England Aquarium, our voice- and e-mails went unanswered. While sustainable collection is certainly a laudable goal, the reality is that there are more and more attempts at regulating, or even outright banning, the importation of certain species whose wild populations are dwindling due to non-fishing impacts such as climate change, localized pollution and habitat destruction. From Washington, D.C. to individual states to the United Nations, there are bureaucrats just waiting for the science to come along that will justify draconian action.
The marine aquarium industry would do well to hedge its bets and voluntarily fund ongoing research into expanding the number of species being propagated domestically. Paying into a fund which could be used to offer grants to individuals and companies engaged in captive breeding would go a long way to keep the hobby viable when these regulations and restrictions come to pass. The controversy about whether aquarium breeding will ever put native fishers out of business is a tired argument that has not come to pass. There will always be a market for wild-caught brood stock to keep the genetic bank refreshed. But wouldn’t it be a shame if one day your favorite fish or rare coral was suddenly not available from the wild and there was nobody propagating that animal in an aquarium?
Photo credit: Quality Marine