Does our hobby affect wild reefs?

ReeferRedSox

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Hi, I’m a newbie and this is my first post!
I’m a long time diver and environmental educator and know that coral reefs globally are in trouble. I can’t help but wonder if our hobby is contributing to that. I see that some but not all of the coral for sale are noted as grown by aquaculture. Are the rest harvested from wild reefs? Most but I imagine not all reefs are protected in some way so can you do that? Are we contributing to the demise of what we love?
Thanks for helping me understand.
 

piranhaman00

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Yes both directly and indirectly ( energy).

However, eating fish or any meat really is much much worse. Driving a car or using plastic is worse.

So yes, but everyday life for most people is much worse.
 

Mr. Mojo Rising

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nah, reefers are a rare breed, its not a popular hobby. In comparison, freshwater fish keeping is much more practised than reefing. Corporate fishing does so much more damage to the ocean, than our little hobby ever could.
 

aws2266

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I struggle with this because this hobby is the furthest thing from environmentally friendly but as the previous poster said, there are things we do that hurt the reefs more than our hobby. That said, there are some positives to take away. We're breeding more fish in captivity and as hobbyists, we can educate the public on just how sensitive our reefs are and how important they are to the world.
 

PeterLL

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It's estimated there are 25,000,000,000 hard coral colonies in the Great Barrier Reef, our harvesting of corals is pretty minimal compared to other threats.
However it can be impactful for certain species - see the Bangaii Cardinal. On a positive, this hobby contributes a huge amount of knowledge and resources with regard to culturing marine fish and coral species, and encourages local investment into the reefs through alternatives to fishing.
Buy tank bred if you can, buy mariculture and aquacultured if you can, but I don't agree with people who say this hobby is a huge net negative or has meaningful negative impact.
 

Rusty_L_Shackleford

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So I lived in Hawaii for 8 years after moving there to study marine biology and aquaculture and got to see a lot of this first hand. Our hobby comparatively does so little damage that imo its hardly even a blip on the radar. I was there for covid and so got to experience Hawaii with no tourists. It was amazing how much the reefs bounces back without the humans. And that was just from them being there. Like just forget about even commercial fishing: just humans being at the beach is stressful on the reefs. They're stiring up the sediment, walking on coral heads, leaving trash, and all the sunscreen isn't good either. There are places with so many people there is a visible slick of sunscreen on the water. Some spots you have to go early in the morning because if you go later it's so murky from sediment you can't see squat. The damage was super obvious when rhe people left and the reefs had a chance to recover, it was like night and day. And I haven't even touched on damage from boats and shipping or agricultural runoff (biggest problem imo). I mean we all know about nutrient control in our tanks, that runoff is full of sediment and fertilizer. Or when you drag a ships anchor across the reef....our hobby is easy for regulators to pick on because it's visible, but as far as damage done, it isn't a drop in the bucket compared to what else is going on. And at least we raise awareness and try to mitigate it with captive propagation and breeding efforts, etc
 
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ReeferRedSox

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Yes both directly and indirectly ( energy).

However, eating fish or any meat really is much much worse. Driving a car or using plastic is worse.

So yes, but everyday life for most people is much worse.
Thanks piranahman. Energy consumption affects all aspects of the environment but my specific concern is the harvesting of wild coral. Being new to the hobby I don’t know if that is widespread and affecting wild reefs or if coral for sale is largely aquacultured and sustainable. I would hope the latter.
 

piranhaman00

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Thanks piranahman. Energy consumption affects all aspects of the environment but my specific concern is the harvesting of wild coral. Being new to the hobby I don’t know if that is widespread and affecting wild reefs or if coral for sale is largely aquacultured and sustainable. I would hope the latter.

My point is that you need to consider the indirect impacts of reefing. Energy use, water use ect. As stated it’s minimal compared to the general world.
 

Alexraptor

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There is definitely an impact and I wont try to deny or sugarcoat it, however I'd say that it's because of our hobby that we may actually have a chance to save some of the reefs and corals from extinction.

A lot of the knowledge and technology being employed by various institutions and coral restoration projects, exists as a direct result of our hobby. So even if our colonies may never return to the sea, we are still generating enormous quantities of data every day, sharing with eachother on message boards, forums and social media etc.

There's a good reason why marine biologists, scientists and institutions are keen to engage with reefing communities around the globe. :)
 

dank.reefer

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I used to struggle with the same thoughts and yes on an extremely minor scale our hobby does effect the reefs. There are some areas that have cut off access in order to preserve those areas and efforts have been made in order to find better methods so as to not disrupt nature so bad such as farmed live rock vs. wild, and aquacultured vs. wild fish, and fragged vs. wild corals.

I had a much bigger inner conflict in the earlier days of reefing when the guys used to farm live rock with dynomite literally blowing up the reef then collecting the pieces and selling for live rock.

At this point I try to buy most of my corals from other hobbiest those are 99.9% fragged from something in another reefers tank(aquacultured). This also boils down to economics I can usually buy frags from other reefers cheaper than I can buy them from the store. So get intouch with fellow hobbiests in your area. Aside from coral frags they are also a valuble wealth of knowledge and equipment at a fraction of the LFS prices.

Fish on other hand is a different story. Many of the fish we keep are not available as captive breed. So I guess the industry of fish sales could do better in that regaurd and companies such as Biota are making efforts to do so. The big problem here is that many ocean fish won't/can't breed in captivity. That being said if you are to keep these fish and maintain a healthy thriving ecosystem many will out live their wild cousins. I have a friend whos blue hippo tang lived for 22 years, and his percula clowns for 18. This is where good husbandry skills come in. Your efforts in this hobby can be self evaluated by how many critters are still alive 5 years after you get them.

We have a responsibility in this hobby to make all of our best efforts to maintain a happy and healthy ecosystem for our little fishey pals. Do your research. Figure out what fish get along and which ones don't. Which fish keep well in captivity and which do not. Some fish like mandarins and Morish Idols(yes 2 very different fish) are very difficult to keep and dont have good mortality rates in captivity. These fish may not be the best choice for begining reefers.

People that get into the hobby on impulse because they saw a pretty tank at their friends house or in a store, then crash and quit. Or quit when they figure out the level of involvement or dough required to get this thing going. The first year or 2 are the most involved and expensive. After that things start to settle down and level out. If you don't commit to this expenditure of time and money and your tank crashes and you quit then yes this would equal a negative impact on the reefs due to the critters you took out of there and killed.

One final thing to be considered is the idea that due to the damages caused by global warming(Reef bleaching) there may come a time when the corals out of our tanks and tanks like ours are the only ones left in the world. Last year alone there was a bleaching event in the Florida barrier reef that took out 80% of it. Wouldn't you know divers were jumping in and cutting the reef down as quickly as they could in order to get it into tanks before it all died. There is a good program on Am***n Prime called chasing corals about reef bleaching that covers the issue in detail. So in answer to your question does reef keeping affect the heath of our wild reefs I guess kind sorta maybe, and is that impact negative? Again I guess kinda sorta maybe? In the end I suppose it all depends on the type of reef keeper you are and how well you keep and maintain your reef.
 
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ninjamyst

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This hobby takes fish and coral from their natural habitats, kills 80% of them during transit, and 10% of the remaining dies quickly as they enter aquarium life. You can buy aquaculture corals but the mother colonies still came from the wild. Vendors that sell aquaculture corals also import tons of wild corals as part of their business. Not every coral species grow in captivity at a profitable rate. You can buy captive breed fish but you will be very limited on choices.

But like others said, the fact that human is alive already has a negative impact on the environment.
 

dank.reefer

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Yes this hobby does take wild fish and corals from their habitats(mostly fish at this point). Those would be the live stock purchased from the LFS. The bummer part with the fish is that at this time depending in whay you want to keep this is your primary choice. Also for begining reffers this will be your primary purchase point for your first few corals. Most LFS are buying corals and fish wholesale through importers who are definately harvesting the ocean. Once you have been in the hobby for a while it is more common to buy corals from fellow reefers(IME). So my personal take is that the fish are far more effected by our hobby and the fish only hobby than the coral. The corals are destroyed far more aggresively by mankind in general than by people in this hobby.
 

ninjamyst

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Yes this hobby does take wild fish and corals from their habitats(mostly fish at this point). Those would be the live stock purchased from the LFS. The bummer part with the fish is that at this time depending in whay you want to keep this is your primary choice. Also for begining reffers this will be your primary purchase point for your first few corals. Most LFS are buying corals and fish wholesale through importers who are definately harvesting the ocean. Once you have been in the hobby for a while it is more common to buy corals from fellow reefers(IME). So my personal take is that the fish are far more effected by our hobby and the fish only hobby than the coral. The corals are destroyed far more aggresively by mankind in general than by people in this hobby.
Clams, scolys, acans, goniporas, ricordeas, rock flower anemones, gorgonians, and so many more species of corals are usually wild harvested. They do not grow fast enough to be aquacultured.
 

dank.reefer

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Clams, scolys, acans, goniporas, ricordeas, rock flower anemones, gorgonians, and so many more species of corals are usually wild harvested. They do not grow fast enough to be aquacultured.
Yup this is true but not everyone on the block has clams, scolys, acans, gonioporas, ricordeas, RFA's, gorginians...... Every houshold on the block in my neighborhood has multiple (2-3) automobiles, most eat meat and commercially harvested seafood, use arisol products, burn natural gas in there water heaters and stoves, use modern electronics built from plastics(oil) and ores mined from the earth and only recently are they starting to make the switch to solar which again is sourced by mining the earth. Not to mention that many of those corals you make mention of are not gonna be there in 20 years anyways(extinction due to human existance). There is a much larger problem going on in our reefs and it is not reefkeeping. If you have personal strife with the practice of reef keeping then quit don't try and guilt trip the rest of us. Myself personally I am not so arrogant to believe that my "individual" efforts are whats gonna save the planet. That being said I am gonna enjoy it as much as I can while I'm here. The only thing thats gonna save this planet and the reefs on it is the extinction of the human race. This planet was here for 8 billion years before us and will likely go on for many billions of years after us. Have fun while you are here it is only for a short time. Enjoy the bounties of the planet that have been bestowed upon it. Take good care of the critters you keep and love your neighbor. If you don't feel good about the hobby you partake in then leave it, don't hate yourself for participating.
 

ninjamyst

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Yup this is true but not everyone on the block has clams, scolys, acans, gonioporas, ricordeas, RFA's, gorginians...... Every houshold on the block in my neighborhood has multiple (2-3) automobiles, most eat meat and commercially harvested seafood, use arisol products, burn natural gas in there water heaters and stoves, use modern electronics built from plastics(oil) and ores mined from the earth and only recently are they starting to make the switch to solar which again is sourced by mining the earth. Not to mention that many of those corals you make mention of are not gonna be there in 20 years anyways(extinction due to human existance). There is a much larger problem going on in our reefs and it is not reefkeeping. If you have personal strife with the practice of reef keeping then quit don't try and guilt trip the rest of us. Myself personally I am not so arrogant to believe that my "individual" efforts are whats gonna save the planet. That being said I am gonna enjoy it as much as I can while I'm here. The only thing thats gonna save this planet and the reefs on it is the extinction of the human race. This planet was here for 8 billion years before us and will likely go on for many billions of years after us. Have fun while you are here it is only for a short time. Enjoy the bounties of the planet that have been bestowed upon it. Take good care of the critters you keep and love your neighbor. If you don't feel good about the hobby you partake in then leave it, don't hate yourself for participating.
I am simply saying reef hobby does have a negative impact on the environment. IMO, it's wrong to justify the negative impact of the hobby by comparing it to other things and saying the other things are worse. I am only looking at reef hobby and stating it has a negative impact on the environment. I accepted that fact and I continue to enjoy the hobby.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I am not going to sugarcoat or defend the impact of this hobby. It is what it is.
 

dank.reefer

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I am simply saying reef hobby does have a negative impact on the environment. IMO, it's wrong to justify the negative impact of the hobby by comparing it to other things and saying the other things are worse. I am only looking at reef hobby and stating it has a negative impact on the environment. I accepted that fact and I continue to enjoy the hobby.
Word...I just got to a point in my life where I am sick of people telling me that the things that make me happy and provide serenity in my life are bad. I love reef keeping, hotrods, red meat, dogs, gas stoves etc.

All things considered I think reefkeeping has a much smaller impact on the enviroment than much of what goes on in this world. I do make efforts to not do damage while I partake but, hell I love clams what can I say. Other than those, I dont really keep corals that I can't frag so I think that helps. And the fish I think of it as saving them. Someone else already netted them and killed all of their homies in the process.

I have no hard feelings about the minor amount of repairable damage this hobby has on the enviroment. Reef on friends, Reef on.
 
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ReeferRedSox

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I used to struggle with the same thoughts and yes on an extremely minor scale our hobby does effect the reefs. There are some areas that have cut off access in order to preserve those areas and efforts have been made in order to find better methods so as to not disrupt nature so bad such as farmed live rock vs. wild, and aquacultured vs. wild fish, and fragged vs. wild corals.

I had a much bigger inner conflict in the earlier days of reefing when the guys used to farm live rock with dynomite literally blowing up the reef then collecting the pieces and selling for live rock.

At this point I try to buy most of my corals from other hobbiest those are 99.9% fragged from something in another reefers tank(aquacultured). This also boils down to economics I can usually buy frags from other reefers cheaper than I can buy them from the store. So get intouch with fellow hobbiests in your area. Aside from coral frags they are also a valuble wealth of knowledge and equipment at a fraction of the LFS prices.

Fish on other hand is a different story. Many of the fish we keep are not available as captive breed. So I guess the industry of fish sales could do better in that regaurd and companies such as Biota are making efforts to do so. The big problem here is that many ocean fish won't/can't breed in captivity. That being said if you are to keep these fish and maintain a healthy thriving ecosystem many will out live their wild cousins. I have a friend whos blue hippo tang lived for 22 years, and his percula clowns for 18. This is where good husbandry skills come in. Your efforts in this hobby can be self evaluated by how many critters are still alive 5 years after you get them.

We have a responsibility in this hobby to make all of our best efforts to maintain a happy and healthy ecosystem for our little fishey pals. Do your research. Figure out what fish get along and which ones don't. Which fish keep well in captivity and which do not. Some fish like mandarins and Morish Idols(yes 2 very different fish) are very difficult to keep and dont have good mortality rates in captivity. These fish may not be the best choice for begining reefers.

People that get into the hobby on impulse because they saw a pretty tank at their friends house or in a store, then crash and quit. Or quit when they figure out the level of involvement or dough required to get this thing going. The first year or 2 are the most involved and expensive. After that things start to settle down and level out. If you don't commit to this expenditure of time and money and your tank crashes and you quit then yes this would equal a negative impact on the reefs due to the critters you took out of there and killed.

One final thing to be considered is the idea that due to the damages caused by global warming(Reef bleaching) there may come a time when the corals out of our tanks and tanks like ours are the only ones left in the world. Last year alone there was a bleaching event in the Florida barrier reef that took out 80% of it. Wouldn't you know divers were jumping in and cutting the reef down as quickly as they could in order to get it into tanks before it all died. There is a good program on Am***n Prime called chasing corals about reef bleaching that covers the issue in detail. So in answer to your question does reef keeping affect the heath of our wild reefs I guess kind sorta maybe, and is that impact negative? Again I guess kinda sorta maybe? In the end I suppose it all depends on the type of reef keeper you are and how well you keep and maintain your reef.
Thanks for the informative reply. I, too, am concerned about wild reef fish harvesting. Absolutely LOVE the Chasing Coral documentary!
 

dannyd_

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This hobby takes fish and coral from their natural habitats, kills 80% of them during transit, and 10% of the remaining dies quickly as they enter aquarium life. You can buy aquaculture corals but the mother colonies still came from the wild. Vendors that sell aquaculture corals also import tons of wild corals as part of their business. Not every coral species grow in captivity at a profitable rate. You can buy captive breed fish but you will be very limited on choices.

But like others said, the fact that human is alive already has a negative impact on the environment.
Is there a figure on this? I didn't know it was this high that is suprising
 

Wave Whisperer

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Hi, I’m a newbie and this is my first post!
I’m a long time diver and environmental educator and know that coral reefs globally are in trouble. I can’t help but wonder if our hobby is contributing to that. I see that some but not all of the coral for sale are noted as grown by aquaculture. Are the rest harvested from wild reefs? Most but I imagine not all reefs are protected in some way so can you do that? Are we contributing to the demise of what we love?
Thanks for helping me understand.
Great to see another fellow diver! Welcome to R2R! I understand where your doubts are coming from. Here's a diver's viewpoint to another.

I partly started my reefing journey due to my love for the ocean(another part is due to my son. It calms him). The beautiful reefs and animals encountered on my dive trips has always intrigued me. Thus I seek out ways on how to recreate that experience and thru research I found out about this hobby. Before this, I didn't know that corals could survive in our living rooms.

Like others had mentioned, we can't sugarcoat the fact that yes, our hobby does affect the marine habitat. Afterall, even the aquacultured or maricultured corals does come from a wild mother colony at some point or another. But I believe compared to the fact that humans are literally choking at mother nature's throat on a daily basis on a global scale, the impact from our hobby is rather minimal at best. The reefing industry is moving more towards mariculture and aquaculture and I guess that's a great leap in the right direction.

On another theory, with you being an environmental educator, I believe that the knowledge learned in this hobby will help you really understand the inner workings and chemistry involved in a healthy marine ecosystem. That in turn, will help to push the knowledge along to a wider audience and hopefully spread the message of ocean conservation.

Put it this way. This is just a generalization of my idea. Let's say in the future, that our ocean's reef system are suddenly pushed to extinction due to global warming or some million other factors. This'll be a global catastrophe that no one can turn a blind eye to. But for us in this hobby, at least we still own a few bits of the ocean in our home. Who knows, if every reefer in the world would be able to unite, we can perhaps seed the ocean back with our frags or colonies that we own and restart the cycle of populating the reefs again. It's just a thought really.

In the meantime, we can only just enjoy the hobby(both reefkeeping and diving). We are all one against a million. There are countless other industries much worse pushing nature onto the verge of total collapse. Technically for us, we are just care-takers of a tiny piece of the ocean. When we commit to go into this hobby on our own will, we are naturally entrusted to keep our pets in the best of health for them to thrive in whatever ways we can. That's how I view myself in this hobby.
 

Danroo

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can't have good without the bad in this hobby, making better equipment, aquaculture corals also if you have not noticed the illegal corals are beyond ugly imo, over tanks have more vibrant colored corals, Also better technology meaning less work for people who are trying to save the reefs from climate change.
 

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