By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views
Whenever my son and I are at the local pet chain store shopping for pet food, my son runs over to the long wall with all of the fish tanks. My son, Jordon, knows we never shop at stores that sell puppies. Well, now I am looking for stores that don’t sell fish or other animals for that matter.
I used to admire the fish too. Now, I know better. I recently was educated by Robert Wintner, also known as Snorkel Bob. Bob lives in Hawaii and has appointed himself a sort of guardian for the fish in his local waters. His book, Neptune Speaks, is filled with photos of colorful and unusual tropical fish. But that is not the point of his book. He is using it as a platform to tell everyone about the trafficking of fish for the pet industry.
According to Bob, tropical fish can either be fresh or saltwater. “Freshwater species are now 99 percent captive bred because captive breeding is cheaper than taking them from the wild,” he explains. “You have to specify between marine and reef ecosystems. Most marine species cannot be captive bred, and most captive bred species cannot be brought to market for lower prices than wild caught.”
“This subject is multi-layered. After the first release of Finding Nemo, I was in a pet shop with a tank way over crowded with anemone clownfish, or “true” Nemos as they’re now called. I asked the guy how he could expect hundreds of fish to survive in such a small tank. He was proud of his accomplishment, acquiring such hot inventory. He said, ‘Oh, don’t you worry, these fish will sell out in a week!’ That was when Nemo was in the news, and many kids who saw the movie got an anemone clownfish and a 10-gallon tank.”
From Bob’s experience he said that those fish will be guaranteed dead in 30 days.
“Here’s the kicker: “true” Nemos are among the most successfully captive-bred marine species. The pet shop guy volunteered that ‘these are all wild caught, too.’ I asked him why, since that species is so easy to breed in captivity. He said the wild ones are a premium. ‘They never stop swimming up and down, up and down, always putting on a show with lots of activity.’”
“That is, the captive-bred Nemos were complacent and lethargic staring out,” says Bob. “The wild-caught fish displayed tank anxiety for 30 days till they died.”
The rest of our conversation got more depressing. As you know, here at Pet News and Views, I don’t go into horrid details of animal abuse. I just want to point out the negatives and show you that there are people like Snorkel Bob who are trying to make changes in an industry that often times is more interested in profit than in the well being of animals.
HSUS has put together a short article on the fish trade called Trouble in Paradise. It is well written and goes into more details than this post. Also on that same site is a slideshow by Snorkel Bob. You can also find his book by clicking here.
The problem that we face as consumers is not knowing where the pets we “purchase” come from. So, I believe that if you want to see fish, go snorkeling or learn deep sea diving. I’m serious. I know for birds there are many rescues you can adopt from. The same goes with puppies, kittens, rabbits, and other animals.
So, now, I am going to buy my cats’ food from online sources and pet stores that don’t sell any animals.