Is our hobby killing the wild reefs?

sillysidewinder

New member
Rating - 100%
30   0   0
So I've been watching a lot of videos lately about wild reefs around the world. To tell you the truth, I am pretty worried where were headed. It seems like reefs are becoming more extinct, fish are being caught at alarming rates, and we are on our way to losing one of the most important ecosystems. Some of the videos I have watched are:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbN161yBBGA&feature=related

This is a pretty cool video about rebuilding the reefs:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLAZDTUUSdE&feature=related

I wanted to bring up this discussion so that we can all be conscious of what we think we know about, but also to bring up the discussion about what we are currently doing to harm our reefs.

Now I am not quite familiar with how our tank corals are related to the wild ones? I know that at the LFS I sometimes see "wild caught" fish, but what about corals? Were these straight up taken out of the ocean? I know at some point they obviously had to come from the ocean, but at what rate are hobbyists like us disturbing the reef?

I thought this is a discussion that should not be overlooked. I would love to hear what all of you think.
 

jrobbins

New member
Rating - 100%
95   0   0
depends who you ask. i am sure walt smith would say its all good, and snorkle bob would say we are bringers of death and destruction.
 

xDAVMANx

Freshwater monster
Rating - 94.1%
32   2   0
It kind of reminds me of when in the 70s they use to say the weater was cooling, then came the 2000s and they call it global warming...now just to make sure they don't look wrong..... It's called "climate change"

Nature has ways to protect it's self yes even from humans,

IMO- I like to get my corals and fish tank raised not from the wild... If more people can think that way , we will be ....if not help us all ;-)
 

Jkedra

New member
Rating - 100%
2   0   0
They should have more programs like MR that do DBTC......I think its a great program and raises awareness.
 

Swim

New member
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
I'm of the opinion that the hobby has had/is having a constructive influence on almost every corner of the wild and aquaculture process. It's the hobbyist over the past three or four decades that have inspired the public aquaeium sector to do a better job with it's husbandry. The requirements of the hobby has forced changes in wild collection techniques, shipping, wholesaling, retailing. There has been much developed by hobbyists in types of equipment we use too. I'm afraid I can't accept the premise that the "hobby" is killing the reefs.
 

noobzy

Avi
Rating - 100%
12   0   0
Agreed about DBTC, and also cudos to all the folks who are successfully breeding fish locally.

I don't think it's fair to just say that "nature protects itself". We need to take responsibility for our actions and be conscious of our effect on natural reefs.
 

sillysidewinder

New member
Rating - 100%
30   0   0
I don't think that this hobby is necessarily killing the reef as a whole. I guess what I would like to see happen is us as hobbyists to have some sort of positive effect on the natural reefs and ecosystem. At the same time, I feel like we may be changing species. I mean look at size alone of fish in the tanks versus sizes of fish in the wild.
 

tosiek

Senior Member
Rating - 100%
48   0   0
Things are better now but the majority of imported fish and coral are completely unregulated for the most part. Its like the wild wild west overseas as far as collection goes. You have to realize that most of those small islands rely mainly on export of fish/coral as their base income. Its a big business and everyone wants their hand in it.

Also, to aquaculture coral and breed fish there are costs involved that force a certain price on those items. Its one thing to rent a boat, some buckets and ship out coral and fish, its a completely other thing when opening an aquaculture facility and spending alot on rent, supplies, electric, heat, ect to grow these corals and spend the enormous amount of time and know how breeding difficult fish. Its no longer a 5$ colony that was wholesale shipped over but a 60$ frag that needs to be sold at that price to break even on growth costs.

The only thing that comes close to aquaculture that is financially viable while saving the reefs is maricultured coral. People rent or own large areas of coastal water that they grow coral in.

Either way, as long as collecting isn't heavily regulated, or the regulation of imports more strict, we won't see much aquacultured coral aside from what you see people selling from their tanks or on a small basement of your house scale aquaculture farm.
 

tosiek

Senior Member
Rating - 100%
48   0   0
I missed the main statement "Is our hobby killing the wild reefs?" In a way yes it is. Actually, its not the hobby as it can be done completely "green" and sustainable if people wanted to. Coral propagation exists as wll as successful fish breeding for many popular saltwater fish. Its the hobbyists mentality and bargain shopping that is killing the wild reefs. If there is no demand for cheap fish and coral there won't be a supply. Its real easy to say you would buy aquacultured fish and coral but another thing when paying out to stock your tank with just aquacultured things.
 

tosiek

Senior Member
Rating - 100%
48   0   0
So wait, do you owe yourself 20$? how does that work? do you write a check to you and cash it? do you take out the 20$ and put it back in? Maybe do the exchange in front of the mirror?
 

sillysidewinder

New member
Rating - 100%
30   0   0
i kind of wanted it to de-rail a little bit. I figured the blanket topic raised would bring about a lot of answers to other questions that i've been wondering for a while.
 

noobzy

Avi
Rating - 100%
12   0   0
@Tosiek

This is where reef communities and DBTC concepts shine. Whether we are selling or giving away frags to each other from home-grown colonies, we're our own self-sustaining (for the most part) reef.
 

TRIGGERMAN

New member
Rating - 100%
172   0   0
i repay myself in sexual favors ;)
haha..now that's a guy who says "I love me!"

Actually we ARE killing our reefs because if we didn't have this selfish complex to play..well I don't believe in that so let's say "mother nature", the reefs wouldn't be chopped up by a 12 year old w/ a straw to breathe out of. These countries as tosiek said rely on this business and they don't really care about the coral (although you'd think they would!). I have seen videos of them just grabbing colonies and tossing them in a truck. No care is taken when transporting these corals for the most part. It's no different than a sweatshop in China or a cocaine plant in Colombia. It's sad but true. Tosiek was also right about the aquacultured stuff it ends up being a hell of a lot more expensive because of all the time, money and effort that goes into growing it. Just like how most people want top dollar for their frags they sell because they want to make some money back to cover the costs of running the tank. Everyone wants to buy everything so cheap though so that's how it is. It's always cheaper to grab something from the wild than to buy it and grow it/breed it.
 

sillysidewinder

New member
Rating - 100%
30   0   0
To tell you the truth guys, this is probably the only topic that has ever turned me off of having my own reef tank. Apart from buying aquacultured corals, what else can I do to lessen harm to worldly corals...? Anyone know some kind of program where I can be a part of rebuilding the reefs????
 

Drinkmorewater

New member
Rating - 100%
70   0   0
http://www.coralmagazine-us.com/content/papua-new-guinea-elephant-room-revealed

http://www.seasmart.ecoez.com/spotlight.html

Papua New Guinea: The Elephant in the Room Revealed?
By CORAL Editors - Posted on 12 January 2011

PNG SEASMART fisher with net-caught fishes in 2010, before the Papuan government prematurely cut off funds to the fledgling program.

Essay by Ret Talbot

Just months ago, the Papua New Guinea SEASMART project seemed the Great Sustainable Hope, a program based on good science, sound fisheries practices, and a promise of delivering superbly healthy marine livestock to the marine aquarium world.

Today that promise has been shaken, as a law suit has SEASMART's founders, EcoEZ Inc., headed by American David Vosseler, battling PNG's National Fisheries Authority, which prematurely cut off funds to the Program. Collection of livestock has stopped and the state of the art holding and shipping facility in Port Moresby is idled.

In an opinion piece I penned for CORAL last week following the announcement that the EcoEZ PNG SEASMART Program was taking the Papuan government organization responsible for its funding to court, I asked “What price sustainability?”

A week later, thanks to an NFA press release and a series of interviews with both NFA and SEASMART sources, we can begin to speculate on the answer. We also find ourselves face-to-face with the elephant in the room—the question that last week’s SEASMART press release did not address and that has been the center of so much speculation.

To wit: “Why did NFA cut SEASMART’s funding prematurely?”

On the first point, we all have learned a lot in the last week about what has been spent on developing a sustainable marine aquarium fishery in PNG. For example, we know, according to an NFA press release sent to CORAL on Tuesday, that the PNG National Fisheries Authority (NFA) allocated approximately $US 5 million over three years to develop a sustainable marine aquarium fishery in PNG.

We know that NFA sources say that all but about $US 300,000 of that five million has been paid, and we know that a SEASMART source has confirmed these numbers. We also know that both NFA and SEASMART agree there is still work to be done before a profitable PNG fishery can be certified sustainable. Of course that will take more money.

How much more money? When it became clear that NFA funding at the $US 5 million over three years level would run out before the end of 2010, SEASMART, according to one NFA source, requested an additional $US 1.1 million to make it to December 31st. This request was followed, again according to an NFA source, by a SEASMART proposal for a 10 year plan for an additional $US 27 million. Apparently this proposal, combined with a $US 120,000 reimbursement request for MACNA 2010, which an NFA source told CORAL was an unapproved expense, led NFA Managing Director Sylvester Pokajam to immediately cut any additional funding to the SEASMART Program.

MACNA? Has the real elephant in the room been revealed?

Why did NFA cut SEASMART’s funding prematurely? Apparently NFA lost confidence in EcoEZ’s ability to develop the marine aquarium trade at a cost and within a timeframe NFA considered reasonable. According to an insider, the money spent to bring a SEASMART contingent to Orlando was the spending straw that broke this camel's back. Put another way, an incensed Pokajam made the executive decision to stop what he saw as money hemorrhaging.

The EcoEZ side of this story has yet to be heard, at least partly because EcoEZ seems reluctant to engage in airing of soiled family laundry.

“[Pokajam] felt that is was the right thing to do,” a PNG source close to NFA told CORAL in an interview. “He saw that spending was way too high—over 65% of money going to ‘admin costs’—and outcomes were way too low. He felt that as [managing director], he needed to take charge and stop the loss of money.” The source went on to explain that “it was clear the last round of $US 300,000 dollars would provide no real tangible output, as SEASMART was spending over $US 200,000 per month. It was clear they needed millions more to meet their mark, so NFA felt the responsible thing to do was to immediately stop the hemorrhaging of PNG government money.”

NFA brought some of the specifics into the public arena with Tuesday’s press release. Specifically, NFA points to key “contractual objectives” not delivered despite the money being spent.

For its part, a SEASMART source told CORAL that the deliverables in question are ready, but NFA never provided the opportunity to present them. Anyone close to this story knows by now that there is an endless and profoundly disappointing battle of he-said she-said going on behind the scenes. Unfortunately, this war of words probably only threatens to tarnish the image of whatever fishery emerges in PNG, deserved or not.

A response to the NFA press release detailing the deliverables undelivered was posted this morning on SEASMART’s Facebook page and states that SEASMART was “surprised and disappointed to see the NFA press release.” The post goes on to reiterate SEASMART’s position that it is inappropriate to discuss most of the matters brought up in the NFA release in public. The release continues saying that SEASMART managers “[disagree] with the NFA statement and are taking the appropriate steps to ensure that the program continues.”

As indicated in my opinion piece for CORAL last week, we are going to simply have to wait and let the PNG legal system sort things out. In the interim, both SEASMART and NFA are moving forward with their respective plans to resume exporting sustainably-collected marine aquarium life from PNG.

Sources close to SEASMART say this could occur within the next month or two, although they acknowledge that given the heightened public tension between NFA and SEASMART, SEASMART’s ability to secure an export permit from NFA may not be as easily forthcoming. SEASMART’s previous export permit expired at the end of 2010.

In its press release, and again during interviews with CORAL, NFA sources laid out their plan to begin exporting PNG marine aquarium life. “The NFA still recognizes that the enormous untapped marine resources of PNG’s reefs can bring great benefit to the coastal people of PNG by channeling these resources through a sustainable, equitable aquarium trade,” an NFA spokesperson said.

The NFA plan, as it was explained to CORAL, is for a six-month, but possibly one-year, internally run operation, which will bridge the gap between the current state of the fishery and “a fully developed, private sector run industry.” NFA sources are clear that whatever program emerges “will be largely based on the core principles of the SEASMART program.”

“A work plan and budget have already been established for the 2011 PNG marine aquarium program,” says Kema Mailu, caretaker of the new NFA-run PNG marine aquarium program. Mailu was previously SEASMART Program Assistant Director. “This next year of operation is expected to deliver a great range and volume of marine aquarium organisms to our international customers. Fish from around the coast of PNG, as well as inverts and cultured corals, should be available at your local fish store by mid-2011.”

We will have to wait and see, and while we wait, we should consider what price we as an industry are willing to pay for sustainability.

At the risk of oversimplification, we can say that SEASMART projects it will cost somewhere in excess of $US 32 million over 13 years to establish a truly sustainable marine aquarium fishery in PNG ready for full privatization.

Clearly NFA does not agree with that, but what about other people?

One industry veteran with a longstanding involvement in the trade and plenty of firsthand experience working in developing island nations throughout the Indo-Pacific is appalled at the amount of money already spent in PNG. He points out that most South Pacific collection stations have been started with private money totaling, at most, no more that $US 300,000.

“Sustainability does not cost money,” he told CORAL, “it costs common sense.”

So what is the sustainably-minded aquarist to think?

There is a lot of wiggle room between $US 32 million and $US 300,000.

I have been interviewing many people with wildly varying perspectives about what the creation and management of a sustainable marine aquarium fishery should cost, and it has become abundantly clear to me that the discrepancy in projected cost often arises from a fundamentally different definition of sustainable.

As such, before we can answer the question of “What price sustainability?” we must arrive at a mutually agreed upon definition of what we mean when we say "sustainable."
 

Featured Sponsors

Top