By now, you’ve all heard about Snorkel Bob’s rant about “The Dark Hobby” on Sea Shepherd’s website, but there are others out there bashing the aquarium industry as well. ForTheFishes is another conservation-based website that just doesn’t quite seem to have a grip on what the aquarium hobby and industry are all about. Much like the Robert Wintner rant, this website seems to be factually incorrect on a lot of issues. However, the one big difference between this site and the Wintner article is the ForTheFishes pages actually cite data instead of randomly injecting data that can’t be verified. I’m not saying the data is correct or incorrect, but at least it has been documented.
The thing I noticed with ForTheFishes data is that it appears to support the idea that maybe wildlife collectors aren’t the problem. Just by going on the data provided in their Oahu Collector Reports from 2000-2007, almost 3,000,000 individuals were taken from the reef in that eight year period. Over that same period, just over 4500 individuals died. This equates to just 0.15% of the animals being taken from the Hawaiian reefs died somewhere between the time they were caught and when they were shipped to various wholesalers. This is an extremely tiny number, and you must keep in mind that it isn’t all fish. Hermit crabs were collected in a much greater amount than any other type of animal, and some of the wildlife wasn’t even classified (designated as “Other”).
Continue reading below for data collected from livestock collectors and how this data might be incomplete or, at the very least, inaccurate.
In one year in particular, there was a 10,000 individual increase in the amount of fish and invertebrates sold versus caught. So either the livestock collectors have found a way to bring fish back from the dead, they are breeding them, or the data is incorrect. I’m voting for the latter, but this would mean that maybe other numbers are wrong. Nobody knows exactly how many different fish and invertebrates are taken from the reefs on a yearly basis, and the aquarium industry bashing websites will say the numbers they are reporting are to be considered incomplete because so much of the information goes unreported. In a nutshell, these people don’t really have a clue, but vastly inflate their numbers so as to make their point seem more valid.
Another point I found very interesting, and this is not really related to the argument above but goes to show just how out of touch ForTheFishes and other similar organizations are, is they claim:
up to 24% of the villagers diving for these animals end up paralyzed or dead from their efforts due to decompression illness from breaking diving safety rules
But anyone who has taken any diving classes knows that you can’t get decompression sickness from free diving (e.g. using a snorkel or holding your breath). Most of these villagers don’t have SCUBA equipment, which can be very expensive to own, use and maintain. They are villagers who use nets, and if they’re lucky a mask and fins, to help in catching their fish. They take a breath of air and make repeated dives to catch their daily limit. In order to get decompression sickness, you must take in air while you are at depth and exposed to quite a bit of pressure. When a diver ascends too rapidly at the end of a long dive, the pressure drops rapidly, thus causing gasses to bubble in the blood. These bubbles lead to joint pain, headaches, and quite a bit of other sicknesses. Again, this isn’t very important to the argument above, but if they are wrong about this concept, what else are they wrong about?