An Inside Look at Aquarium Collecting


Ever wonder how your wild-caught fish, corals, and invertebrates are collected from the reef? Well, landlocked hobbyists are in for a treat, as Talking Fish gives us all a little more insight as to how one of the larger aquarium collectors operates. This episode follows the family owned and operated aquarium collecting group, Cairns Marine, on their way to collect aquatic life off the Great Barrier Reef. Besides showing us all how they collect and house their fish, we also get a brief explanation of the harmful practices used in aquarium collection even to this day. Obviously these practices, which include cyanide and dynamite fishing, aren’t being used by Cairns Marine divers, but is merely showing viewers just how much more sophisticated their own operations are and how they achieve such a healthy catch.

Climbing aboard a pair of vessels that each surpasses 70 feet in length, the collectors hand catch every single fish and take every precaution to make their trip back to the Cairns Marine holding facility as smooth as possible. Once the fish are collected, they are placed in a collection bucket and allowed to slowly decompressed. This process is intended to prevent any expansion of the swim bladder and is accomplished by suspending buckets at various depths for a certain amount of time. The buckets are suspended from a long rope and are hauled to the surface one after the other, simulating a conveyor belt. Once on the boat, each fish is placed into its own containers, which are then placed into a very large drum full of water. Upon the boat’s arrival back at the docks, the barrel of fish (there’s a firearm related joke in there somewhere) is unloaded, with each fish being grouped not by species, but by the diver that caught them.

This process of grouping fish to the collectors is unique in the industry, and allows for a very in-depth paper trail that helps clear up a confusing and convoluted supply chain. The methods used by Cairns Marine not only allow us to find out what part of the world the fish came from, but also who caught it. Sort of reminds us of a restaurant in Hawaii called Mama’s Fish House, where individual names are tied to the meal you eating, provided its fish that’s on your dinner plate.

Finishing off the clip is a brief view of how the fish are bagged and tagged. Each animal is individually packaged in a suitably sized plastic bag, and newspaper is placed in the outermost (or dry) bag to keep it as dark as possible to reduce stress. From there, the bags are placed in large styrofoam containers, permits are filled out, and everything is shipped to their destination, whether it be a final destination or just another point in the supply chain.

All in all, I would have to say this video is very informative, though not every aquarium collector goes to these same lengths.


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