Did Industry Leader Say Tank-Bred Fishes Are Best for the Hobby?
THE FACT IN QUESTION: The director of operations for one of the largest captive breeders in the country confirms that captive bred fish, not wild caught, are best for the hobby, especially beginners.
THE ORIGINATOR OF THE FACT IN QUESTION: For the Fishes
For the Fishes, a Hawaii-based anti-aquarium organization recently cited a Pet Products News article as further evidence the marine aquarium trade should move entirely away from wild-caught fishes. This is consistent with the organization’s argument that Hawaii’s marine aquarium fishery should be closed and that the marine aquarium trade should rely entirely on tank-bred fishes. In this case, For the Fishes used a presumably credible source within the marine aquarium industry to further their argument, but did they get it right?
HawaiiBanFactCheck.org says they did not, and here’s why.
First the statement, in its entirety, from For the Fishes:
In “Saltwater Setups Stoke Sales” the true bottom line of the aquarium trade is again revealed. Coral reef wildlife sacrificed to drive lucrative dry goods sales as hobbyists spent an average of $1521 on tanks, chemicals, lighting, etc. in 2010. In addition, the director of operations for one of the largest captive breeders in the country confirms that captive bred fish, not wild caught, are best for the hobby, especially beginners.
While we take issue with the characterization of coral reef animals being “sacrificed to drive lucrative dry goods sales” (it’s worth noting that while the average aquarist, according to the article, spent $1521 on his or her aquarium in 2010, American anglers spend $1.1 billion per year on bait alone), it is the statement that “the director of operations for one of the largest captive breeders in the country confirms that captive bred fish, not wild caught, are best for the hobby” that we want to fact check here. To do so, we put in a call to the individual in question.
Chris Turnier is vice president of sales and marketing at Sustainable Aquatics, which is indeed one of the largest commercial marine aquarium fish hatcheries in the country. He was interviewed for the Pet Products News article in early January 2012, when his title was director of operations at Sustainable Aquatics. According to Turnier, the interview was 20 to 30 minutes in length, but only a couple of Turnier’s sentences made it into the finished piece.
Before we go any further, here is the direct quotation from the article itself:
“Wild fish and inverts will always have more problems than captive-raised animals,” stated Chris Turnier, director of operations for Sustainable Aquatics in Jefferson City, Tenn. “[Captive-raised livestock] are disease- and parasite-free, eat prepared foods, and are the best choice, especially for beginning hobbyists.”
Taken Out of Context AND Misread
“That is what I said,” Turnier tells HawaiiBanFactCheck.org, “but that’s far from the full story.” According to Turnier, the quotation above was taken out of context in the article, and then For the Fishes took it out of context again. “More importantly,” Turnier says, “For the Fishes misread it.”
Turnier tells HawaiiBanFactCheck.org his quotation refers to both fishes bred in captivity (i.e. tank-bred or captive-bred fishes) and fishes collected from the wild as post larval fishes and then raised to a salable size in captivity (i.e. tank-raised fishes).
“In the article, I referred to captive-raised fish, and that includes all fish raised in captivity.” An important part of Sustainable Aquatics business is wild-collected, tank-raised fishes, which are fishes collected from the wild and raised in a tank. In the marine aquarium lexicon, a tank-raised fish is distinct from a tank-bred fish insofar as the former is collected from the wild as a post-larval, recently settled animal, and the latter is the offspring of parents living in captivity.
“If they didn’t already know this,” Turnier says, “For the Fishes could have easily gone to the Sustainable Aquatics website to learn it.”
Even with this clarification made, Turnier goes a step further.
“The necessary diversity of fish in the marine aquarium trade requires sustainable wild collection,” says Turnier. “We have to try and make sure these wild fish, which are extremely important for the hobby, come from reputable sources, but captive breeding cannot survive without wild collection at this time.”
So what’s the verdict? Did For the Fishes get it right when they stated as fact that the director of operations for one of the largest captive breeders in the country confirms that captive bred fish, not wild caught, are best for the hobby, especially beginners.
No. For the Fishes did not get it right.
In direct contrast to what For the Fishes stated as fact, the VP for sales and marketing (formerly director of operations) at one of the largest marine aquarium hatcheries in the country says he supports sustainable harvest of marine aquarium animals from well-managed marine aquarium fisheries worldwide (including Hawaii!).
He did not say, as For the Fishes, claimed, that “captive bred fish, not wild caught, are best for the hobby.” He did say that tank-raised fishes—either collected from the wild as recently settled fishes or raised from captive parents—are often the better choice for the beginning aquarist, and he stands by that statement. Nonetheless, he believes well-managed marine aquarium fisheries collecting a wide range of reef fishes for the marine aquarium trade worldwide are not only justified but essential.