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The aquarium hobby: can sinners become saints in freshwater fish conservation?
September 11, 2014
1:34 pm
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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Fish and Fisheries - early view

Abstract

The aquarium hobby is popular worldwide, but it has positives and negatives for freshwater fish conservation. The most damaging impacts of the aquarium trade on ecosystems are overharvesting and invasive species. Consequently, many conservationists and academics have the perception that aquarium hobbyists are generally harmful to species conservation. Without overlooking these major drawbacks of the aquarium hobby, we aim to establish common ground between hobbyists and conservationists by correcting some misconceptions and showing the benefits of serious aquarium hobbyists in the conservation of freshwater fishes and their habitats. Our overview illustrates that the aquarium hobby is not insensitive to the pernicious effects of this enduring hobby on natural systems and that serious aquarists and their associations can directly assist and fund scientific research, increase conservation awareness among the general public and even participate in ex situ and in situ conservation programmes for native fish species at national or international levels. Whilst the relationship between conservationists and the aquarium hobby has often been antagonistic in recent years, ultimately most biologists and aquarists share a love of the species they study or maintain, and this common interest could be the basis for a more positive and productive relationship.

Cake or death?
September 11, 2014
4:15 pm
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Plaamoo
Bellingham, Washington U.S.A.
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Thanks Matt. This is something I struggle with regularly. I like this approach.

" aquarium hobbyists are generally harmful to species conservation"

No doubt about it.

September 11, 2014
5:05 pm
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Darrell Ullisch
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plaamoo said
Thanks Matt. This is something I struggle with regularly. I like this approach.

" aquarium hobbyists are generally harmful to species conservation"

No doubt about it.

 

Actually, I take exception to this statement. It is not the hobbyist that causes problems, it is the people who are trying to make money off the hobbyists who give little consideration to conservation. They are often motivated solely by the potential for profit, not the desire to keep fish. And as far as invasive species, government fisheries organizations have done ten times as much harm as the aquarium hobby.  Best known example of the worst would be the Nile Perch, but it is only a small sample of their actions.

 

I believe a great deal of the blame that is placed on hobbyists is a matter of bad press. When Snakeheads were first found in US waters, it was blamed on an aquarium release; however, when they found that the real reason was a ceremonial release by certain Asian cultures, that was barely mentioned. Why? Because it is less politically correct to blame a specific culture than to blame a bunch of weird fishkeepers. I find that "conservationists and academics" who have never been involved with the hobby get their opinions from the negative attitude of journalism toward the hobby. Those who actually know the hobby and hobbyists tend to have very positive opinions, and often work with us. My own dealings with Dr. Stan Weitzman are a prime example of this cooperation.

 

I find that most current hobbyists are more knowledgeable about conservation because of their hobby, and some of the effort to breed fish is in recognition that we need to do less collecting of wild fish. I agree that the hobby was not that worried about conservation 30-40 years ago, but in the 21st century, it is of great concern to the vast majority. From reading that abstract, it appears that the author is hoping to educate these insulated academics with a touch of reality. I wish them luck in their efforts.

September 11, 2014
9:54 pm
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Plaamoo
Bellingham, Washington U.S.A.
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" aquarium hobbyists are generally harmful to species conservation"

Generally is a key word here. While I respect your opinion Darrell, without a market(we hobbyists) there would be no collection. There are many components to the issue and as you say there is a lot of good that comes from the hobby also.

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