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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Inside an Aquarium Fishery

Although it is a stunningly beautiful fish in its own right, the red lionfish is normally highlighted in public aquariums for two reasons.  One is its venom - and when I was young, that's about all I remember reading about when I checked out the signage.  Today, however, the fish is most commonly highlighted as an example of an invasive marine species.  Its spread is believed to be the result of the tropical fish trade.

Unlike birds and mammals (and to a lesser extent reptiles and amphibians), many captive fish are still sourced from the wild.  This raises environmental concerns, as well as a lot of questions.  What species are being collected?  How are they being collected?  How many is too many?  What is the impact of their removal on the environment?  And, as the lionfish case demonstrates, what is the risk of invasive populations being established outside of the native range?

I recently came across this mini-documentary about Hawaii's aquarium fishery.  It's an interesting insight into how fish are collected for export and sale, and what the environmental and ethical implications are.  To be clear, though, it is produced by commercial interests, so it's hardly an unbiased piece of material.

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