A Journey Beneath the Waves

Coyote Peterson, host of Brave Wilderness. Over 4 billion views on YouTube and 19 million subscribers! I’d say he’s not doing too badly.  Coyote Peterson started his educating career in 2009 with The Reptile Show, which then became Breaking...

Florida to Ban All Pterois Lionfish Imports Beginning August 1st

We keep harping on the lionfish invasion of the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and pretty much all waters surrounding Florida because it is a serious, ongoing issue with seemingly no end in sight. Despite the best efforts of scientists to understand the issue, legislators to fix the problem, and recreational fishermen to eradicate the invaders, the problem persists to the point where different and often drastic measures have to be given a good look. The latest attempt to help tackle the invasion is the straight up ban on the import of all lionfish from the Pterois genus into Florida. But is it the right move? As spelled out in one of Ret Talbot’s latest contributions to the Reef2Rainforest blog, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commissioners unanimously approved the prohibition of the “importation of live lionfish from the genus Pterois“, approved divers to use rebreather equipment to harvest lionfish, and will allow the Executive Director to issue permits to spearfisherman to remove lionfish and other non-native species from areas where the activity was previously prohibited. Ret goes on to point out that lionfish from the genus Dendrochirus are not considered in this ban despite there being significant genetic similarities between them and members of the Pterois genus. This new set of rules goes into effect on August 1st, and as usual, there are good arguments from both sides of the aisle. One of the key incentives intended by this ban is that marine aquarium importers who still rely on lionfish as part of their product offering will start collecting fish out of Florida waters to fill their demand. This approach, coupled with aggressive erradication efforts from other industries, is hoped to be able to keep the lionfish under better control, though nobody knows what real impact will be had.

Coral Smuggler Jonathan Hale Sentenced in “Operation Rock Bottom” Case

It looks like “Operation Rock Bottom” has claimed yet another would be coral poacher. The federal probe targeted at the illegal harvest of marine life in the Florida Keys has led to a long list of arrests and convictions, with the latest sentence being handed down to Jonathan Hale of Country Critters in Patchogue, New York last week. As we mentioned in our “initial coverage of this sweeping operation, Hale was out on $25,000 bail after being charged with buying and selling live rock and corals taken from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, as well as falsely labeling overseas imports. According to a followup story on the Keys News, Hale has been sentenced to two years of probation and $10,000 in fines following his guilty plea. This is a considerably lighter sentence than the potential five years in a federal prison that he was facing. Luckily for him, he was willing to accept a plea bargain and the prosecuters were willing to play ball. As for the specific details of Hale’s involvement, the Key News story claims “Hale met with an unnamed harvester in Marathon on Sept. 30, 2012, and discussed pricing for Ricordea Florida coral specimens, tarpon and sharks.

Australia Wipes Out 250,000 Crown-of-Thorns Starfish in Two Years

Image Credit: Getty Images The crown-of-thorns starfish has been one of the single most destructive threats facing Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Its voracious appetite for hard coral flesh combined with its accelerated life cycle have caused massive losses to the tune of nearly 50% of all corals along a 1,500-mile stretch of the Queensland coast over a few decades. This has caused some drastic measures to be taken by wildlife officials, most of which has been centered around an ineffective 20-point injection method that kills the starfish. According to multiple news stories, however, that method was replaced with a much more effective single-injection method that has led to more than 250,000 starfish deaths over the last two years alone. The new injection method is also more effective in that it kills the starfish in just two days and is supposedly harmless to other marine life. Previous methods consisted of injecting acid into each of the starfish’s arms, which could obviously do some pretty significant damage to nearby corals as well. According to the Daily Mail’s coverage of several interviews with Australian officials, the Australian government has already provided £560,000 of funding towards removing the starfish, with another £1.1million in the budget for future starfish destruction.

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.
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