divers and fish

Ursula Keuper-Bennett howzit at turtles.org
Sat Nov 3 15:08:10 EST 2001

John, Dr. Carlson, others,

I used to be in aquarium keeping back in the mid-70's and kept at it for 
just under a decade.  Like many marine aquarists I started with freshwater 
first.  I discovered quickly that there were "trends" in fish --usually 
heralded by the national fish keepers mags.  So there were IN fish, and the 
OUT fish made their way into cut-rate sale offs at fish shows.

And any time a "new" fish was heralded, people'd stampede to be the first 
to own the thing.

There were actually relatively few marine keepers back then.  I'm sure it's 
plenty different now.  With me, I stopped keeping fish --and yes, marine 
fish-- because of my diving.  Underwater, I've seen creatures free and 
unfettered and I find going into a fish store to be a sad and disturbing 

The truly worst part for me are the marine fish and live rocks that become 
bargain basement usually because they're doing poorly.  They are relegated 
to the bottom rows of tanks.  The fish are pale, listless and thin.  The 
"live rocks" are perhaps a couple weeks away from giving up the ghost and 
fouling their tanks.  And I'm describing the best fish shop in our area.

I also know the obscene difference between the money the collector makes 
and the bucks exchanging hands in the pet store.  I know how many of these 
creatures die during transport too.

Right now I have four turtles and a tortoise.  Orphans --the unwanted pets 
of others.  They help me to understand the love people can feel towards 
their pets and how pets truly enrich our lives.  So I'm not against the 
keeping of pets --even exotic marine fish.  They can be a source of comfort 
and companionship.

If I were to return to keeping marine fish (and I might one day when I'm 
too old to SCUBA dive), I'd take the castoffs sometimes offered in the want 
ads "Free to a good home" or rescue those that are destined for the toilet 
and sewers.

Someone who says he'll set up a tank and stock the thing with marine 
"discards" has my vote.  That person is truly interested in living 
things.  He's in the hobby for the love of it and the love of those animals.

Such a person understands that the value of these marine-hobby creatures 
cannot be measured with a $dollar$ sign.  And he'll be the one to read the 
books and work hard to assure that his charges receive the best of care.

You know?  Care?  The best of care?

Best wishes,
At 01:33 PM 11/3/01 -0500, John Williams wrote:

>Human nature is what it is.  People need to eat and people are generally
>compelled to find the best mate to pass on their genes.  Status is very
>much important in both (Moral Animal, Robert Wright; Third Chimpanzee,
>Jared Diamond).  The point remains economics and education.
>Also, I would point out that some people are curious beyond being aware of
>status (I believe snobbery is rampant in all human endeavours -
>conservationism as well).  Much can be learned from these organisms,
>especially with the extremely rapid pace of science.  It is very likely
>that what is learnt may very well be the strongest motivation for much
>more substanial conservation efforts.
>Finally, I believe that this thread is getting off the more important
>point.  Given that people will continue to keep reefs, how can the home
>aquaria reef industry continue without significant environmental impact.
>I proposed licensing people as a means education or discouragement.
>I am curious as to other constructive ideas.

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