aquarium concerns

John McManus jmcmanus at
Mon Nov 5 15:07:04 EST 2001

Hi Charles,

Yes, I do find it fascinating that coral reefs seem to have resisted
invasion from aquarium fish so far. Your examples from Hawaii are very
helpful in that regard.

My impression is that healthy coral reefs, at least, are particularly
unhealthy for anything out of place. Even a fish frightened by a diver will
often be devoured in a matter of seconds for being slightly more vulnerable
to a barracuda or other predator than normal. This may be less true in
overfished reef areas. There may be a high critical threshold in starting a
new population -- which has implications in particular for the resilience of
Hawaiian reefs to local extinctions. I'm quite worried about mass culture
facilities in out-of-normal-range locations providing the critical
thresholds during hurricanes. Thus, the recent discovery of exotic coral
facilities in the Caribbean is worrying. Then there is always the problem of
"low probability over long periods of time and large numbers of trials".
However, I would opt for the greatest immediate concern being put on mass
culture and holding facilities in unnatural locations.




John W. McManus, PhD
Director, National Center for Caribbean Coral Reef Research (NCORE)
Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (RSMAS)
University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway
Miami, Florida 33149.
jmcmanus at
Tel. (305) 361-4814
Fax (305) 361-4600

-----Original Message-----
From: Charles Delbeek [mailto:delbeek at]
Sent: Sunday, November 04, 2001 7:10 PM
To: jmcmanus at
Cc: coral-list at
Subject: Re: aquarium concerns

At 12:20 PM 11/2/2001 -0500, you wrote:

>Speaking of invasive species, here is an excerpt of today's news from
>PFP SeaSpan ~~ The bi-monthly electronic newsletter of the
>Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation. Note that there are many ways
>other than through aquaria that species are introduced. I think we should
>seek to limit all sources.

John: Not to say your point is without merit but in Hawaii tropical marine
fish have been imported into this state for decades, and there have been
numerous releases over that time span, however, there has not been a single
incident of any aquarium fish forming a reproducing population here that I
am aware of. I would hazard to guess that the same may also occur in
Florida. Yes you do occasionally see sightings of Centropyge flavissimus in
Kaneohe Bay and elsewhere around Oahu and the odd damsel here and there,
but that's about it. Where there has been catastrophic changes have been
when the state government, despite advise from scientific consultants
released fishes here such as the bluestripe snapper, Lutjanus kasmira, and
the peacock grouper, Cephalopholis argus, the snapper in particular has
been implicated in the decline of local snapper species. There have also
been attempts in the last few decades to seed reefs with giant clams and
some corals from the south Pacific, none of which survived.

In contrast, the freshwater streams and lakes on several of the islands are
almost completely dominated by aquarium fishes such as cichlids and
livebearers. In this case, the lack of any competition in the local
freshwaters probably played a significant role.


J. Charles Delbeek
Aquarium Biologist
Waikiki Aquarium
2777 Kalakaua Ave.
Honolulu, HI, USA 96815
808-923-1771 FAX

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