aquariums save reefs?

EricHugo at EricHugo at
Wed Nov 29 08:13:01 EST 2000

Hi Doug:

While I agree with many of your points, I would like to add the following 

First, it does not take much skill anymore to grow corals in aquaria.  It 
does take some knowledge or good information, and it does take some amount of 
patience and effort.  However, even a newcomer to the hobby can realize coral 
growth succesfully with hundreds of species from the get-go.  Nonetheless, 
you are disconcertingly correct that the way things are now, the situation is 
realistically a wasteful one way ticket out of the ocean - at least in terms 
of wild collection - and there are many reasons for this beyond the scope of 
this post. 

Still, I don't at all agree with your idea to switch to freshwater systems 
(which have their own problems, in many cases).  I think there are much 
better solutions, including mariculture.  As it stands right now, entire 
aquariums can be stocked with several hundred species already being farmed, 
cultured, bred, or traded.  Several thousand more show up over time as part 
of the stocking procedure (even of maricultured stock).  We regulalry combine 
small amounts of sand from various systems to increase biodiversity of 
amphipods, polychaetes,e tc.  We trade plankton.  We grow corals faster than 
the ocean.  We observe behavior 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with 
systems that have little input (nearly closed) and a biodiversity that can be 
higher than many coral reefs.  

My poster on unreported forms of asesxual reproduction in scleractinia at 
9ICRS was based entirely on aquarium observations and several scientists from 
very different countries noted they had seen something similar in the wild, 
but had thought, in that quick snapshot of observation that is diving, that 
it was a coral tissue injury.

Furthermore, and while a lofty and perhaps even logistically remote 
possibility, keeping one million aquarists with the notion that their efforts 
may be used for replenisment provides a proper motivation and direction for 
aquaristic futures, and helps remove the "disposable fish" mentality.  
Techniques developed and tried in home and public aquaria are being used in 
restoration and replenishment and mariculture operations.  At least this 
particular aquarist is fairly involved in the scientific community and has 
published to prove it - and funded solely out of his pocket and interest and 
concern.  Alienating or dismissing a group where many have skills, 
observations, and knowledge equal to or above many on this list, I fear, 
removes the likelihood of cooperation between related disciplines.

I have long felt that using aquarists and divers along with scientists can 
provide meaningful benefits to stopping coral reef destruction.  Some efforts 
may be trivial, some perhaps far more meaningful.  There are problems that 
need to be addressed, but dismissing the cumulative resource that aquarists 
could (and have indicated that they would) work toward, support, develop, and 
provide both voluntarily and willingly is a bit disappointing.

Eric Borneman

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
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