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Something Smells Fishy

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.

20 comments to Something Smells Fishy

  • Lois

    Another case of the pet industry doing harm. I wish everyone would adopt. And I agree: if you want to see fish, go snorkeling, take photos or a video and watch it at home. It’s a great way to relive good memories of your trip.

  • Maggie

    Thank you Michele. I didn’t know about this either. I guess I will also be shopping with you online at shops that don’t sell animals.

  • Jody

    I wasn’t aware of this either. How awful. The pet industry can sometimes be so cruel.

  • Suzanne

    I am going to check out Snorkel Bob’s book. Glad he is protecting the fish.

  • Josh

    I wasn’t aware of this either. Puppies, birds, and now fish. The best plan for getting a pet is adoption. And I’m with you, Michele, I have gone snorkeling. It is much more exciting seeing the fish in their own habitats.

  • Caitlin

    Michele, these are your types of stories. I know you don’t like writing about the horrors of animal cruelty. Thank you for bringing this issue to light and for writing about it in a palatable way.

  • Would that be palatable as in a nice fish dinner? Remember the sign in the Moore movie about rabbits “Pets or Meat”. That’s kind of the way lots of folks think about fish.

  • Aloha Michele, Great editorial. Thanks for shedding light on this fishy industry. The aquarium trade decimates Hawaiian reefs and Hawaii fish populations. Reefs are picked clean–all for the aquarium trade. Hawaii pet trafffickers export reef fish by the millions year-in, year-out for the aquarium hobby.

    Neptune Speaks to the peril of trafficking in wildlife for the pet trade. Why are colorful reef fish still taken in Hawaii with no limit on the catch, no limit on the number of catchers and no constraint on rare, endemic or vanishing species?

    There are several ways to help. If you own an aquarium, don’t replace the fish; Let other hobbyists know how the aquarium trade decimates Hawaii reefs; Go deep into the issue at http://www.snorkelbob.com/neptune_speaks/

    Thanks and Aloha, Snorkel Joan

  • 100% of the proceeds from Neptune Speaks book sales accrue to the campaign to stop the aquarium trade. Stay tuned for Reef Libre, coming soon….

    Snorkel Joan

  • Joanne

    Thank you for sharing what you learned Michele.

  • Leslie

    I was unaware that there are domestic and wild fish. I don’t think I ever thought about it.

    I purchase Copley’s dog food online, but that is because it is so much easier for me to have a 50 pound bag delivered by UPS and move it from my front door to the kitchen versus having to lift the bag multiple times in a store and then transport it home.

    If you’re going to take a stance to not purchase pet food from stores that sell pets, I think you’re going to need to do a lot of legwork and research the online retailer and see if it is at all related to a store front retailer. For example, I have no idea if Petco or Pet Smart is at all related to Chewy.com, or if Chewy.com might have another website or a store front under another name that sells pets. I’d like to know what you find out from your research.

  • Thanks for your comment Leslie. I tried ordering from Mr. Chewy or chewy.com. They are not connected to any pet stores, and they don’t sell animals. The food arrived within 2 days, and honestly I am impressed. I would love to shop locally. There is a pet store around the corner from my house, but they sell live pets (reptiles), and it is an eyesore. I also frequent Trader Joe’s (one of my favorite stores). Right next door to it is Petsmart. I stopped shopping there because of the fish, birds, and reptiles for sale. I told them too. I don’t think they care. I hate seeing any animal cooped up in a cage. The birds really upset me. I think if we want a bird we should set up feeders in our yards or adopt one. Fish are off limits to my family now thanks to Snorkel Bob’s book.–Michele

  • Leslie

    I purchase Copley’s food at chewy.com also. I’ve had very good experiences with this online retailer. I love shopping at Trader Joe’s.

  • Joyce

    Thank you for sharing this. I won’t shop at these stores either.

  • […] GD Michele Hollow publishes a wonderful blog called, Pet News and Views and did a recent article, Something Smells Fishy about the sale of tropical fish. In fact, ever since the release of Finding Nemo, clownfish have […]

  • […] Michele Hollow publishes a wonderful blog called, Pet News and Views and did a recent article, Something Smells Fishy about the sale of tropical fish. In fact, ever since the release of Finding Nemo, clownfish have […]

  • So sad … if only more people knew what goes on behind the closed doors of the pet industry.

  • […] Michele Hollow publishes a wonderful blog called, Pet News and Views and did a recent article, Something Smells Fishy about the sale of tropical fish. In fact, ever since the release of Finding Nemo, clownfish have […]

  • So true Damien. Most of us think that it is all good, when it’s really not.–Michele

  • Robert McCarty

    I used to live in Hawaii, and this is a fact. The aquarium trade is terrible. I buy my pet food and supplies online at stores that don’t sell any pets.