A few days ago, I was browsing the usual bunch of aquarium related forums and noticed a thread about a particular piece of Hawaiian legislation. Despite there already being a seemingly unlimited number of these threads scattered across hundreds of forum sites, I was drawn to this one for some reason. Perhaps the thread title, which was a call to action asking hobbyists to come quick and read about the latest bill calling for a demise of our hobby, drew me in as it was designed to do. Regardless, my attention was hooked and I proceeded to read what I thought would be the pleas of concerned hobbyists. As I read on though, the fact that most people didn’t legitimately care and weren’t even remotely informed about the issues our industry is facing quickly became apparent. Most of the people chiming in either shrugged off the legislation or dismissed it in a joking fashion, while other obviously misinformed hobbyists sort of sided with the bill’s intents. The only real concern shown throughout the entire posting was the potential price increase of yellow tangs (Zebrasoma flavescens), a popular Hawaiian reef fish exported for the aquarium trade. After seeing those statements, I really couldn’t take anymore. The complete lack of involvement in the broader scope of our hobby bothered me, greatly.
As a person who has a deep passion for this hobby, seeing people who weren’t informed about current events didn’t sit well. I don’t expect casual aquarium hobbyists to have the same obsession with aquariums that I do, but if you want to participate in such an energy intensive hobby whose primary task is to keep delicate reef life alive and thriving in captivity, then you should know a little bit about what’s going on…especially if you are being viewed as part of the problem by anti-trade activists. So how do people get involved? How can an aquarium keeper with a full-time job, a family, and that big reef aquarium learn about issues and help?
At this point, I could easily point to my own website, the AquaNerd Blog, and try to get people to read about the issues here, and only here. But that would be a bit hypocritical in my opnion, as we are not the only website/blog covering news topics centered around the aquarium trade and we certainly can’t do it all on our own. As much as I would like to take credit for keeping people informed, there are other (and even better) resources at each and every aquarium keeper’s fingertips for getting informed and involved. These include the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America (MASNA), CORAL Magazine, Advanced Aquarist, Reef Builders, HawaiiBanFactCheck.org and the entire army of aquarium forums that permeate our webspace. All hobbyists have to do is pick up their mouse and navigate a few articles. Keeping informed about the issues really is that simple.
We, collectively as a hobby, need to understand the issues that we knowingly, and even unknowingly, face. Otherwise, the foundation of the entire aquarium hobby will rot beneath our feet and we’ll look up one day and wonder how anti-aquarium activists were able to regulate our trade out of existence. We also need to get on board with initiatives, companies, organizations and individuals that promote the best practices of our hobby and continually push us in even more sustainable directions. The hobby needs to be more aware of breeding efforts and aquarium keepers need to purchase from hobbyists who are growing the fish and corals we want in their own basements and garages. Hobbyists also need to patronize companies with outstanding reputations and who also support aquaculture and captive-breeding, both within their organization and outside of it.
I’m well aware that this seems like one long rant, and it probably is, but the point is that we need to understand the issues and work past them so that they are no longer issues.