Why Don’t Aquarists Support Captive Breeding

It would seem that the recent musings of Scott Fellman, longtime figurehead in the marine aquarium hobby and co-owner of Unique Corals, on captive bred fish have really struck a nerve. In a recent posting on his company’s Reef2Reef forum page, Scott shared a little of his frustrations about the virtual disappearance of captive-bred mandarin dragonets from Oceans Reefs and Aquariums (ORA). In a nutshell, he was told by an ORA rep that the dragonet breeding program had essentially been shelved due to the lack of support from aquarium hobbyists. This was due to the fact that wild-caught mandarins were far too cheap for the captive-bred variety to compete with. With regards to this news, Scott went on to say “that sucks”, and offered up a thorough virtual “spanking” of the aquarium hobby as a whole…and we completely agree with Scott one billion percent! To clarify, this is not in any way a reflection on ORA or any other organizations or individuals that breed marine ornamental species or support captive breeding efforts. Instead, this is a look at why aquarium keepers still continue to purchase low-quality wild-caught livestock. Scott’s article highlights the big reason why captive-bred fish still see so many hurdles…and it’s purely financial. After all of the initial excitement wore off, hobbyists by and large avoided buying them because they were $40 or more per fish.

Acropora gemmifera Documented for First Time in West Hawaii

It seems that in recent years, most of the news coming out of Hawaii has been fairly bad. More often than not, we find ourselves discussing how the aquarium trade gets unfairly targeted by misguided activists, but this time around the news is different. According to Hawaii News Now, a research team from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Aquatic Resources has, for the first time ever, discovered colonies of Acropora gemmifera in West Hawaii. In addition, it is said that this is the first record of any Acropora species occurring around the island of Hawaii, not to be confused with other areas like the Northwest Hawaiian islands where Acroporids have been discovered. According to the article, there have been no reports of any Acropora species occurring around the Island of Hawaii from more than 4,500 coral reef monitoring and research dives from the past 15 years. The corals were initially identified based on aesthetic features, though the ID was later confirmed with genetic testing by the Richmond Lab at the Kewalo Marine Laboratory, Pacific Biomedical Research Center in Honolulu.

Yellow Tang Captive Breeding Program Gets Big Funding Boost

Captive-bred yellow tangs (Zebrasoma flavescens) may be coming to an aquarium near you. That’s the reality thanks to the efforts of the Oceanic Institute of Hawai‘i Pacific University (OI-PHU), who announced Friday that their groundbreaking research to breed yellow tangs has gotten a much needed infusion of cash…$75,000 to be exact. The funding comes from multiple sources, with the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation and the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority making up the bulk of that with their $35,000 donation. The Sea World/Busch Gardens Conservation Fund contributed $8,000 and the Oceanic Institute provided $32,000 worth of in-kind support. It is said that the funding will support a year long project which has the goal to bring the current level of yellow tang breeding up to the point that the research team can have its first ever captive rearing of the species. As part of the announcement, the OI-HPU also highlighted the fact that research scientist Chatham K. Callan, Ph.D., has lead the way with yellow tang breakthroughs when he discovered “breeding techniques that allow them to culture viable eggs in significant quantities and successfully rear the resulting larvae through their critical first few weeks of life.” As part of this joyous announcement, Callan will be speaking to the Science Pub-Hawai‘i tomorrow, January 27th. If you would like to read more about this ambitious work, be sure to visit: “OI-HPU yellow tang research gets boost from multiple funders” Story via MARSHReef

Portland Aquarium Co-founder Sent to Prison for Illegal Harvesting

Ammon Covino of the Idaho Aquarium Earlier this year, Ammon Covino, who co-founded the Portland Aquarium and is the former president of the Idaho Aquarium, was arrested on charges of illegal harvesting of protected sharks and rays from Florida. After his initial arrest, he was taken into custody a second time for attempting to destroy evidence related to his case. He would go on to plead not guilty to the charges, as all criminals seem to do, but we’re happy to say that the almost year-long saga is drawing to a close. For his illegal harvesting, Covino was sentenced to one year and a day in prison and will be hit with a $10,000 fine, be forced to donate $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Federation, and will be banned from working in a wildlife exhibit for a minimum of two years. While a year in the pokey might seem significant for the illegal harvesting activities, it pales in comparison to what Covino could have been sentenced to. Originally, he was up against a 20 year prison sentence and a million dollars or more in fines. According to court documents and the news stories surrounding the case, Covino went on to admit involvement in the illegal acquisition of three spotted eagle rays and a pair of lemon sharks, all of which were shipped to the Idaho Aquarium. According to the law, not only is it illegal to acquire protected livestock without specific documentation and permits, but it is also illegal to simply ship these animals

Paul Walker, a Friend of the Ocean

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium/Randy Wilder We tend to shy away from Hollywood news, both in our personal lives and here on the blog, as it usually is nothing but garbage that has zero influence on our daily lives. But this story is significantly different. We’ve all heard about the recent death of actor Paul Walker, best known for his roles in the Fast and Furious franchise. What he wasn’t so widely known for was his passion for the ocean. Recently posted on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Tumblr page, Walker originally went to school to study marine biology and was a self described “ocean addict”. Although he was eventually drawn away from his degree as he pursued acting, Paul used his influence to continually follow his original passion and even found a charitable organization, Reach Our Worldwide, which helped in disaster relief for events that occurred all over our globe. When not starring in popular car racing movies and spreading humanitarianism, Paul also served on the board of the Billfish Foundation and took part in scientific tagging expeditions of great white sharks. It truly is sad when an actor with such a heart and passion for man and animal kind loses his life so tragically.
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