Discussion in 'Fish Discussion' started by Aqua Box, Oct 12, 2017.

Are Captive Bred Fishes The Only Way?

Nowadays it’s not uncommon to see a hobbyist say, ‘I’m only stocking my tank with captive bred fish.’ Of course, their heart is in the right...
By Aqua Box, Oct 12, 2017 | |
  1. Aqua Box

    Aqua Box Aquarium Design, Installation, and Cherry Fish R2R Supporter Platinum Sponsor Gold Sponsor Article Contributor

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    Nowadays it’s not uncommon to see a hobbyist say, ‘I’m only stocking my tank with captive bred fish.’ Of course, their heart is in the right place, and it’s understandable why most people would think this is the best route forward for wild reefs. But is it? Is captive breeding the only way?


    Above is a gorgeous little flame angel bred in Hawaii using a flow-through system.

    The short answer is no. In fact, sustainably collected wild fishes are generally significantly less impactful on wild reefs than commercially breeding fishes inland. “Huh!?! What are you smokin’, Austin!?” Now bear with me for a minute, and know that I used to be the one asking what the person pushing this notion was smoking.

    Okay so let’s look at what it takes to net collect a fish off of the reef:
    1. A tank of gas to fuel up the boat to go collecting.
    2. Dive and fish collection gear to use once at the reef.
    3. A temporary holding facility where ideally animals are held for at least a couple weeks prior to shipping.
    4. Fish shipping materials: styrofoam and cardboard box, bags, heat/cold packs.
    5. Fuel for the plane to ship the fish.

    Brian Greene is a phenomenal deep fish collector using sustainable methods to collect uber-rare specimens.

    Now let’s look at what it takes to breed fishes inland:
    1. All of the above to source brood-stock.
    2. A facility to house brood-stock and rear live foods, larvae, and young fishes.
    3. Equipment to do all of the above (tanks, sumps, filter media, skimmers, salt, RO/DI, lights, etc.).
    4. Staff to do all of the above (they drive to and from work everyday consuming fuel and more).
    5. Utilities to keep the facility running (electricity, gas, water, sewage).
    6. Months upon months of work to bring fishes up to sellable size (which oftentimes are still tiny).
    7. Fish shipping materials: styrofoam and cardboard box, bags, heat/cold packs.

    A shot inside ORA, arguably one of the best commercial breeders stateside. These guys have the numbers game down to a science!

    When you add up all the things necessary to successfully breed marine fishes inland, it’s easy to see how the carbon footprint is significantly greater than taking a boat out to a reef and collecting from the most efficient breeder in the world, mother nature.

    Of course, there are a plethora of exceptions to this. Unfortunately not every collector out there is using sustainable practices. We need them to target the proper sex and age/size to ensure that the groups of fishes continue to breed in their natural range. If we go out and collect all the animals from one area, clearly there won’t be any left to breed.

    If a collector rips coral from their bases to catch fishes, chances are the coral will die, driving fishes away from that area since that was their home. If collectors are using cyanide, they will kill the coral resulting in the same effect, and on a much larger scale than just killing a couple colonies by ripping them up.


    Biota Marine uses flow-through systems in their hatchery in Palau keeping their footprint incredibly low.

    Some commercial breeders use flow-through systems if they’re lucky enough to be near the ocean. This removes a ton of equipment from the mix, along with the necessity to produce synthetic seawater. Removing equipment from the mix cuts back on electrical consumption, thus reducing their carbon footprint.

    Finally, we’re now seeing commercial breeders that rear so many animals, when you look at their carbon footprint per fish we’re getting really close, perhaps even lower, than that of a wild-caught counterpart. Leaping high-five to those that are making head weight in the numbers game!

    At Aqua Box we search for breeders spending their time working with animals that are generally caught in regions known for cyanide fishing. Or deepwater animals where collectors are threatening their own lives diving down to unsafe depths in search of highly sought after fishes. Of course we love seeing so many clownfish being produced, to the point where we do not have to ever worry about affecting wild populations. Everybody wants clownfish, right? So this is a phenomenal animal suited for captive breeding.


    We were ecstatic to work with these amazing captive bred Yasha Gobies (Stonogobiops yasha), who are unfortunately commonly sourced from regions utilizing less than desirable collection methods.

    On the flip-side, last year we were offered captive bred Royal Gramma’s (Gramma loreto) bred in Australia. I could not have been more excited to see this wonderful little fish being aquacultured and offered to the trade! However after taking a step back it hit me; this fish is in no way threatened, and I can have a diver sustainably collect a few dozen on Tuesday, and have them tanked in my office by Thursday. Or, we can have this fish collected by a diver, shipped to Australia where all the bullet points listed above for captive breeding are applied over months, then shipped back across the world to me. What sense does that make?


    Rufus Kimura is another amazing rebreather (and standard SCUBA) sustainable collector that we work with, here showing off the illusive Centropyge narcosis and C. boylei.

    So while we’re huge supporters of captive breeding fishes, it’s important to realize it is not the end all be all of moving our industry forward. In fact, in many circumstances, it is more harmful to wild reefs than sustainable wild collection.

    If you would like to explore this more, here are a few links to MACNA presentations where this is discussed in length:

    Sustainable Wild Collection of Australian Fish and Corals by Julian Baggio | MACNA 2014

    Are you being sold what you're told? Sustainability unveiled by Laura Simmons | MACNA 2016

    Coral Reef Conservation, Expedition to Somaliland by Dr. Luiz Rocha | MACNA 2016

    Ditching the Dump & Hope Approach: Sourcing, Quarantine & Acclimation by Austin Lefevre | MACNA 2016
     
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  2. aKlevans

    aKlevans Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

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    Great article!
     
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  3. Maritimer

    Maritimer Moderator Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award CTARS Member Partner Member 2019 Reef Tank 365 Build Thread Contributor

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    Quite the eye-opener, on several levels.

    Thanks!

    ~Bruce
     
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  4. Bouncingsoul39

    Bouncingsoul39 Well-Known Member

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    Carbon footprint is just a crap marketing term. The point that you seem to completely ignore is just that THE ANIMALS ARE BETTER LEFT ON THE REEF. Period. Full stop. Every fish that is captive bred and goes into someone's tank is a fish that gets to stay on the reef and live out its natural life instead of dying in some well meaning but inexperienced hobbyist's quarantine tank. From a purely business perspective, you're right, buying fish from a breeder and captive breeding in general at this point doesn't make sense due to the high cost. It will make more sense as technologies develop and prices come down. It's still in its infancy, it will get better. Governments of first world countries are only more likely to limit collection going forward as we are seeing in Hawaii. It only takes a small twist of mind for an island nation to think that tourist jobs and that tourist money is better than wild fish collection for a hobby. If you are betting on wild caught fish for the hobby in the long run, that's a risky bet. The smart people are getting behind captive breeding.
     
  5. spiraling

    spiraling Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

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    There is something emotionally better about captive bred fish. Taking a fish off the reef is taking it from its home and what it knows to your aquarium seems stressful and like putting the fish in prison. Taking a captive bred from the aquarium it knows to your aquarium seems better some how?
     
  6. Lasse

    Lasse Valuable Member R2R Supporter Reef Squad Leader R2R Excellence Award Reef Tank 365 Article Contributor Build Thread Contributor

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    From a European perspective

    Great article but IMO - its lack some important aspects.

    1. A wild caught fish pays the fishermen 4 – 5 times more compared with a fish for human consumption - therefore it gives the locals economic driving force to preserve the potential for future use. There will be an economic argument for locals to work for conservation of their reefs. This aspect is very important for CITES – the international trading council for wild animals
    2. Plants and animals in different countries should been seen as natural resources for the country in question. If we really want to stop a rise of the number of economical refuges into different developed countries maybe we should let the economic benefits of natural resources (in this case fish and corals) as much as possible stay in the country of question? We maybe should stop hijacking other countries natural resources and after that be surprised that we see a lot of refuges at our borders?

    The perfect solutions – for me – is the growing numbers of wild farmed corals that is imported to at least to Europe during the last years. In the future – sea or land farmed (in their native countries) of fish maybe can following the same track as the corals do for the moment.

    Sincereley Lasse
     
  7. lotekfish

    lotekfish Member

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    Thanks for posting this article and I'm really looking forward to reading other people's views on this subject. As someone who thinks about the environmental impact of all aspects of life- food, housing, transportation, etc.- I think quite a bit about how best to pursue this hobby. I've questioned whether it's possible to justify reefkeeping at all considering the amount of energy and water that is consumed, but I can't keep away so I try to be as smart and informed as possible. I too have been guilty of making a "captive bred only" stance but I am also aware of the tremendous amount of energy and resources that breeders can consume and I question whether that actually has a greater impact on our environment. You can't ignore the indirect, hidden costs of our actions and decisions. It's not as simple as "one fish bred=one wild fish saved". I am now, finally, after years of taking a "captive only" stance, starting to look at people and companies who I feel have sustainable approach to wild collection and I've begun to purchase from them also.
     
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  8. Maritimer

    Maritimer Moderator Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award CTARS Member Partner Member 2019 Reef Tank 365 Build Thread Contributor

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    I've read that purple tangs are being collected as very small - newly settled? pre-settlement? - juveniles and raised in captive conditions through the smallest stages, where there would otherwise be great loss to predators, to marketable size. Sort of a hybrid approach.

    ~Bruce
     
  9. Aqua Box

    Aqua Box Aquarium Design, Installation, and Cherry Fish R2R Supporter Platinum Sponsor Gold Sponsor Article Contributor

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    Sorry you feel that way. The reefs do not.

    Of course, some people will try to take advantage of anything as a marketing ploy, which can only undermine the work of others. So I understand how you, and many others, can feel that way. It's important we do not let those underminers dictate our stance.
    You should check out the links posted at the bottom of the article for more information.

    I fully agree that too many fishes are lost in inexperienced aquarists hands.
    I think you missed some of the article where I noted that captive breeding makes incredible sense in many areas. The point of the article is that wild collection verse captive breeding is not a black and white topic. We do not have to take a hard stance, nor should we. This is not a game where it's us verse them.
    What's happening in Hawaii is a shame. Emotional bias is being pushed over science; when that happens no one wins.
    If the powers at be behind shutting down Hawaii took even a quick glance at the impact tourism has on the reef, they would see how much more damage is done by tourists stepping on coral, etc. But they won't since most of the push is backed by tourist ran operations ;)
    Again this is not black and white. I'm betting on captive bred all the way as I don't see people outside of our world being able to wrap their mind around it. And as mentioned we do not take a side, since there are great ways to move forward on both ends.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017
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  10. Aqua Box

    Aqua Box Aquarium Design, Installation, and Cherry Fish R2R Supporter Platinum Sponsor Gold Sponsor Article Contributor

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    I can totally see your stance and wholeheartedly understand.

    However, we cannot base all of our decisions on emotions. We have to look at the science and data behind it as well if we want to be in this for the long haul.
     
  11. Aqua Box

    Aqua Box Aquarium Design, Installation, and Cherry Fish R2R Supporter Platinum Sponsor Gold Sponsor Article Contributor

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    Hi Lasse, all great points! I could not cover every aspect without writing a book ;) These topics are covered in the links provided at the bottom of the article.

    I concur that maricultured animals - in their home region - are a phenomenal way of moving forward while keeping local people employed who would otherwise be collecting from the wild.
     
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  12. Lasse

    Lasse Valuable Member R2R Supporter Reef Squad Leader R2R Excellence Award Reef Tank 365 Article Contributor Build Thread Contributor

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    I hope you did not take my post as a negative critic - it was not meant that way, In Europe – and especial in Sweden - the carbon footprint of human beings (and that it must be a lot smaller) is an axiom and therefore no one discuss it in matter like this.

    I only wanted to highlight the two main arguments that has been put forward in the Swedish discussions of this matter.

    I´m aware of that the discussion will take another path in the US – good luck :)


    Sincerely Lasse
     
  13. Aqua Box

    Aqua Box Aquarium Design, Installation, and Cherry Fish R2R Supporter Platinum Sponsor Gold Sponsor Article Contributor

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    No sir, not taken negatively at all! You bring forth some phenomenal points :)

    Thanks again for your input!
     
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  14. Lasse

    Lasse Valuable Member R2R Supporter Reef Squad Leader R2R Excellence Award Reef Tank 365 Article Contributor Build Thread Contributor

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    That´s true - 2 weeks ago I help a friend that import reef fishes to unpack 5 of these - they was from a Sri Lanka company and nearly the same price as wild collected. I also unpacked 2 captivity breed pipefishes (but in my apartment :)). Its a tricky fish to have to eat dead food - but these start to eat directly and in spite of the fact that they are small - I´m convinced that they will survive.

    Sincerely Lasse
     
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  15. Aqua Box

    Aqua Box Aquarium Design, Installation, and Cherry Fish R2R Supporter Platinum Sponsor Gold Sponsor Article Contributor

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    We have not seen this for purple tangs (yet), but we have seen blue tangs (Paracanthurus hepatus) like this. They're incredibly cute when acquired at this size, and quite easy to condition!
     
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  16. Ghxst

    Ghxst Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

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    Can we see the carbon cost of burning fuel over a reef, planes to fly etc etc as you stated? I'm a natural resource person and numbers are the only way to add this up. A nice formula would be great to. Thanks!!
     
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  17. chipmunkofdoom2

    chipmunkofdoom2 Always Making Something R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Article Contributor

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    Carbon footprints shouldn't be ignored, but I think it's a bit myopic to make the argument over aquaculture all about atmospheric CO2.

    Our hobby has a serious image problem. Hawaii's recent ruling to stop issuing marine ornamental fish collection permits wasn't because of the carbon footprint of collection operations as opposed to the carbon footprint of aquaculture. The main concern is fish populations and sustainability, whether that's an accurate concern or not. I genuinely believe that marine ornamental fish collection causes much less harm to the local environment than food fishing. It takes only a fraction of the tonnage per year with much less by-catch. Yet, for some reason, the general public is uneasy about aquarium fish collection. Perhaps logically it is okay to take fish from the ocean for food because that's about survival, but keeping fish as decorations or pets is not? I don't know. What I have read, however, is that the fisheries around Hawaii are in relatively good shape, aside from a few troubled areas. Regardless, collection permits are not being issued any longer, even for the healthy areas.

    Most of the data seem to suggest that wild collection is sustainable and that marine ornamental fisheries are rather healthy. If things like the recent ruling in Hawaii are happening despite the data to the contrary, then we are not engaged in a battle of information: we're engaged in a battle of opinions and perception. I don't mean to imply that if we aquacultured more fish then Hawaii would have kept issuing permits. But it's an important point to consider: despite Hawaii having mostly healthy fisheries, and despite collection being banned where fisheries are unhealthy, Hawaii still thinks that the marine ornamental collection practices need to be reevaluated.

    We are a relatively small hobby. There are many more people outside the hobby than there are in the hobby. I don't know what percentage of people are saltwater aquarists, but even if we're generous and assume it's as high as 10%, that's still only 1 hobbyist in every 10 people. Even if every single hobbyist votes to keep collecting wild fish, only two non-aquarists need to vote "no" for us to be outvoted. By the way, that's assuming 10% of people are reef aquarists. I doubt the number is that high. The lower our numbers are, the easier it is for us to get outvoted by the general public.

    Aquaculture is important because it demonstrates that we are attempting to reduce our impact on the oceans. If our fish are coming from healthy fisheries, and I think most of them are, then I think we can be in agreement that we don't NEED aquaculture because it reduces our impact. We need aquaculture because it shows everyone else that whether or not we're impacting the ocean in a significant way, we're working on reducing that impact.
     
  18. Lasse

    Lasse Valuable Member R2R Supporter Reef Squad Leader R2R Excellence Award Reef Tank 365 Article Contributor Build Thread Contributor

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    About the situation in Hawaii - 53 minutes in this talk - the scientist argue very well about the yellow tang issue

    What I have understand - the decision of the court was just that an environmental impact assessment has to be done before new licenses were granted.

    Sincerely Lasse
     
  19. S-t-r-e-t-c-h

    S-t-r-e-t-c-h Well-Known Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Ocala Reef Club Member

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    There's something to be said for survival rates of particular species. Animals like angelfish have frankly terrible survival rates from ocean to tank, nevermind longevity once they have reached their forever homes. Captive breeding of those species seems like a no-brainer for both the well-being of the fish, as well as the final consumer. Even more so, now that more rare species are making it to market.

    Your example of grammas is noted though for the opposite reason. Probably 80%+ of royal grammas collected survive to the final consumer and the average lifespan has to be in the years for even new hobbyists. Understandable that the economics for breeding this species would follow a completely different curve.

    It's also important to remember that marine captive breeding is still in its infancy, so these early breeding successes shouldn't be viewed in isolation. The techniques developed may help to breed other species down the road, like tangs or anthias or wrasse or even mahi for that matter.

    One thing that I haven't really seen discussed discussed is how captive breeding impacts things like prevalence of internal and external parasites. This is something you find in other pet stocks. For example, wild caught snakes are often loaded with mites and internal parasites, similarly wild caught african cichlids are much more likely to need treatment for internal worms. That just isn't an issue for captive bred stock. If freshwater aquaria is a good model, captive breeding isn't going to eliminate ich, but maybe it can reduce the prevalence of flukes?

    Anyway, I love that we're even talking about this and looking beyond just the initial cost to the downstream impacts of employment and utilization of resources... :)
     
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  20. Lasse

    Lasse Valuable Member R2R Supporter Reef Squad Leader R2R Excellence Award Reef Tank 365 Article Contributor Build Thread Contributor

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    I haven´t that experiences with angelfish as you describe - can you please give some background data?

    Sincerely Lasse
     
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