"I have known Dylan for a couple of years now in my capacity as Editor of Marine Habitat magazine. As an expert in the field of marine aquatics, Dylan has always proven to be very approachable, responsive, knowledgable on the subject matter in question, and professional in the way he conducts himself. He is a pleasure to be acquatinted with."
Dave Pitt - Editor - Marine Habitat
Asian Geographic Issue No. 88 Issue 3 Money Edition (2012) Pages 96-98 (Conservation section)
If you've seen the movie Finding Nemo, you have been introduced to the fact that cute marine aquarium fish such as the clownfish depicted in the movie are actually caught in the wild. Unless you dive much deeper into the subject, you may not realise that in the real world, between two hundred and three hundred million dollars worth of wild coral reef fish like Nemo are caught from tropical seas each year, bound for home fish tanks, via the international marine aquarium trade. The people that really catch them, are mostly penniless village fishermen, risking their lives on a daily basis, earning their living with unsafe improvised diving equipment. To get an accurate picture of the situation on the ground, I decided to join some Filipino aquarium fishermen for a day, and see for myself just how they really collect fish like Nemo.
Asian Diver Issue 120 (Issue 3 of 2012) Pages 38-41
Ask yourself the following: Have you ever wanted to enjoy unlimited diving without running out of air and without the expense of purchasing a rebreather unit? What follows is exactly what happened to me when I attempted one of the world's most dangerous methods of diving; compressor diving, Filipino style; After reading this article, perhaps you can decide for yourself if you'd like to give up your precious scuba gear, head offshore in a plywood boat and plunge into the deep armed with nothing more than a pair of shorts, a length of fractured garden hose held together with tape and supplied with air from an ancient rusting compressor. Oh and did I mention, there is no regulator or mouthpiece on the end of the breathing hose?
Tropical Fish Hobbyist (October 2012) Pages 94-101
Have you ever watched those television programs about adventurous families that decide to give up their safe suburban lifestyles and regular nine to five jobs to go and start a new life running a guest house on a tropical paradise island? Well, in the following story I will share with you how I came to drag my family across the globe, escaping from a gloomy English winter to establish my own public aquarium in the hot and steamy Philippines. I figured if these people I'd seen on the TV could manage a guest house in Fiji with no previous experience; my seventeen years of working in the public aquarium industry should give me a decent chance of success in starting a modestly sized public aquarium. In a country where average people can barely afford to eat fish, let alone pay just to look at them swim around a tank, was I being overly optimistic with my plan for a public aquarium in The Philippines?
Marine Habitat (Awaiting publication September 2013)
Following an era of being the world's leading aquarium fish exporting country, "The Philippines" became a dirty word in the marine aquarium industry, after the 1960s saw the development of a new and damaging means of fishing in the island nation, with divers using spray bottles of sodium cyanide to rapidly stun and capture reef fish, at the expense of damaging the coral reef habitat and yielding poor quality weakened aquarium fish for export. So, would you buy your next aquarium fish from a Filipino? Find out how spying on Filipino fishermen in a lagoon in Saudi Arabia changed my perception of Philippine aquarium fishing, and how they taught me to catch marine aquarium fish for myself...
Published on July 25th, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
If you are considering taking up aquarium keeping as a profession, you will be interested in some current job openings that will have you working with sharks, seahorses and stingrays in a full time capacity.
Some home aquarists believe that these kinds of positions are only open to highly qualified individuals, but I can assure you that well experienced hobbyists often have more to offer in these roles than a biology graduate that has little or no practical experience and there is never any harm in making an application if you think you could handle the role.
There is an Aquarist opening at Blue Reef in Portsmouth, a Displays Supervisor position on offer in Newquay and a Marine Aquarist position vacant at the large Blue Planet aquarium in Cheshire. The first two vacancies are aimed at degree educated candidates whereas the opening in Cheshire does not stipulate a degree but seeks candidates with good technical and practical experience.
For further details you may find details of two of these positions here (I suggest emailing for details of the Newquay opening which was not listed on this page): Blue Reef Job Openings.
Published on July 25th, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
This sounds like a nice idea. A wetsuit that has been scientifically tested to reduce the chances of you being attacked by a shark.
However, I am not going to be rushing out to buy one of these.
The website of the vendor, mentions a lot of well documented facts and figures about shark eyesight and behavior and so on but only mentions the evidence of how well it actually works, from one field test:
“Footage shows a stunning encounter with two large tiger sharks. The sharks completely savage a control bait covered in ordinary black neoprene whilst minutes earlier they had approached another identical bait, covered in the SAMS “cryptic coloured” pattern, but then veer away as they approach, leaving that bait untouched.”
The reason that I noticed this high contrast zebra-like wetsuit in particular was that I had previously read that black and white stripes were the worst colours that you could wear if you were around sharks as they see in black and white. The National Geographic website has a page on Shark Attack Tips that states:
“Do not wear high-contrast clothing” and “Sharks see contrast very well” which to me would be serious red flags for this wetsuit.
I’d be inclined to conduct a lot more field testing before I put this suit on the market, but the producer of the suit answers this issue thus: “Field testing in the natural environment is a much more difficult and time consuming process. Interaction with large predatory sharks in their natural environment (without creating contrived circumstances) is actually very difficult to achieve. To get to a stage of total and absolute certainty will take many, many years. By which time most of the people currently enjoying water sports will have long since retired and will not have had the advantage of this science. Introducing these suits now has no downside or negative effect.”
For me I think the “difficult and time consuming research” is exactly what would make this kind of suit worthwhile and set it aside from other suits. As for “Introducing these suits now has no downside or negative effect” what about the issue of providing a possibly false sense of security for the user?
Published on July 25th, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
The current wave of relentlessly hot weather in the UK, while very welcome in many ways, can cause problems for aquarists large and small. Whilst some public aquariums have had to turn to large refrigeration engineering companies for temporary solutions to the unusually high temperatures, home aquarists with lower budgets can find such weather challenging as while most marine fish will handle temperatures going a few degrees above the normal range for a few hours or days, corals are far less forgiving and efforts must be made to prevent losses.
Here are a few suggestions that might help you and your aquarium get through the heatwave intact without incurring a lifetime of debt.
By all means, if you have the cash, invest in an aquarium chiller. This will allow you to continue as normal without making any other changes. Buying this from your local aquatics retailer rather than online would be sensible. These things are heavy and in the event of a fault or other need to return the item, you don’t want to pay the postage on one of these. Prices vary, but the good news is that some of the most reliable chillers I have ever used were from the lower end of the price list and came from China.
Another method that will reliably bring your water temperature down by a few degrees is simply blowing an electric fan across the surface of the aquarium water. This works surprisingly well, but will hugely increase evaporation meaning you may well need a daily top up with freshwater, so monitor your water level carefully if you go this way. This can also cause extra humidity and spray to be blown around the aquarium surface and surrounding area, so be cautious and avoid blowing sticky, corrosive salt spray where you don’t want it.
Apart from cooling, you can reduce the amount of heat you are putting into the aquarium by reducing lighting, especially from halides. Consider raising the height of your halides or running reduced hours during the heatwave. You could just opt to run fluorescent lighting during periods of extreme high temperature; your corals are much more likely to succumb to problems from an out of control temperature than they are to reduced lighting for a few days.
You may well have your own different solutions to dealing with high temperatures. Feel free to share them in the comments section.
Published on July 12th, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
I recently wrote a piece for MH on the latest tests aiming at detecting fish illegally caught using cyanide, you can find it on the news pages. I have received a response from the UK Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA) with a positive and balanced tone, reflecting the fact that, whilst welcome news as a first set of results, this is not the first time that a promising new cyanide screening method has come along and that the previous schemes did not prove as useful as first hoped.
Here is the text of the statement:
“The use of cyanide to catch ornamental fish for aquariums, but more particularly for the live food fish trade, is an acknowledged problem that has no place in the industry. And OATA would wholeheartedly welcome a robust test that would help to stamp out this unacceptable practice.
The research from Portugal’s University of Aveiro to develop a new test for cyanide use is certainly interesting but we feel it is at the start of this process to find an acceptable and robust way to check for cyanide in fish, rather than the final solution.
The test involved transferring a fish into artificial seawater, leaving it long enough to pass waste, and then sampling the water for a specific by-product of cyanide. But this Msc project only involved testing 27 fish, including controls, so it was a very small sample.
The test was also looking for traces of thiocyanate in the water, which can bio-accumulate. So our concern is that possible background environmental cyanide – from pollution such as mining or from cyanide use in the locality for capturing food fish – could mean a positive reading that has no relevance to the way the ornamental fish for live export were captured.
There is a lot at stake with this kind of test – not least the potential to turn individual fishermen, source areas or, if used in destination countries, importers into criminals. So it’s vital any test is well-researched and robust.
This piece of research is another promising start. We understand a PhD project is to follow which will hopefully examine these issues in much greater depth. We certainly welcome that and look forward to the results of that further research.”
Published on July 8th, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
It may come as a surprise that it has taken this long, and there is still some way to go, but I for one was very happy indeed to hear that there is finally an effective fast and accurate method of detecting whether or not fish have been caught with cyanide.
Nobody in the industry wants collectors to use cyanide, as the fish caught this way, whilst looking normal, normally die within a few weeks of import as a result of the exposure, but the practice of third world fishermen using sodium cyanide in a squeezy bottle to stun and ease the capture of marine reef fish for aquariums (and the table) is a fact of life. Up until now, there has not been a cost effective method of detecting cyanide exposure in aquarium fish, so the practice has never been eradicated and remains a serious issue in The Philippines and Indonesia, the two largest sources of marine aquarium fish globally. Fishermen can catch more fish in a day this way, and with the price they receive for the fish being so low, the incentive is always there to “cheat the system” and sell exporters the cyanide caught fish. One of the key reasons that the Marine Aquarium Council (MAC) set up their ill fated MAC certification system was due to the fact that cyanide just couldn’t be effectively tested for.
Previously, the methods used for detecting cyanide residues in aquarium fish required extensive laboratory work, which involved killing the fish that was to be tested to obtain tissue samples. This was costly and time consuming, the fish needed to be tested within a day or two from capture, so the tests had to be carried out in the exporting countries. One of the places that this was done, was The Philippines, where there was a period of a few years during which cyanide testing was carried out at government fishery laboratories. The testing program petered out after a few years and various claims were made about the testing facility not being up to scratch or the government staff running the program being corrupt and “in the pocket of the exporters”.
What makes the new test procedure so powerful is that it does not need to be carried out in the exporting country. Fish excrete cyanide breakdown products in their urine; the new method involves testing the water that the fish are held in for these breakdown products. In the work done so far the test was able to detect cyanide exposure even four weeks after the cyanide exposure took place. This means that, once the test is ready for market (following further refinement) importing inspection officers at border posts, wholesale importers and retail stores will be in a position to test for the presence of cyanide caught fish.
Early reaction from wholesalers in the US has been broadly positive, though concerns have raised that they should be allowed to use the test before government inspection becomes widespread so that they are able to screen out any bad suppliers, as the wholesalers themselves are presumably worried about being found to be in possession of cyanide caught fish. Some have called for the testing to take place in the country of origin to prevent the import of cyanide caught fish in the first place, but I predict that this will not be adopted by the aquarium industry as the corrupt nature of officialdom in much of SE Asia would render this approach next to worthless.
For now the testing procedure has yet to be perfected and adopted in the aquarium trade, but I am certain that it will be and this is going to be a big step forward for the marine aquarium hobby, in terms of better quality fish in retail stores but more importantly because the end of cyanide fishing will make a huge difference to the coral reef ecosystems where the fish are collected. It’s good for the aquarium fisherfolk too; they will no longer have a reason to run the risk of poisoning themselves in the quest for a larger catch, but will be able to demand better prices for sustainably net-caught fish.
I will be following this story closely and asking for reaction from key figures in the UK aquarium industry, so watch out for a follow up. This test is only going to be useful and effective if it is appropriately adopted by our industry. You can read full details of the research carried out in Portugal that has gone into developing this test here.
Published on July 8th, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
Here’s a strange story from Border Scope in California; in an article titled Southern California man pleads guilty in fish bladder smuggling case, we read of how Anthony Sanchez Bueno was caught smuggling 170 Totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi) swim bladders into the USA from Mexico.
The swim bladders have a high value in Chinese cuisine as a soup ingredient as they are believed to assist in treating fertility, circulatory and skin problems.
Totoaba bladders are targeted as they can sell for as much as $10,000 US dollars apiece and before anyone thinks I am taking the p*ss we are talking about the swim bladder, rather than the downstairs one. The fish which can reach 200cm in length have a limited distribution in the Eastern Central Pacific in the Gulf of California. Formerly abundant, they are now threatened by extinction due to fishing and habitat change. International trade is banned and the fish are listed by the IUCN as critically endangered. Convicted sumgglers face up to 25 years in jail and a fine of $250,000 in the USA.
Unpublished 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
Here is an interesting news piece on the progress made so far with culturing a species of marine butterflyfish. The piece is from Jon-Michel Degidio of the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory at the University of Florida where he is working with the Rising Tide Conservation project (which is an initiative of the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund) and can be read in full here.
“Working with Milletseed Butterfly’s (Chaetodon miliaris) has presented some unique challenges. After experiencing some issues during shipping and quarantine, we made some changes, and have a batch of 23 healthy, vibrant fish from Disney’s Rainbow reef, in Hawaii. The fish are eating very well and spawned twice during quarantine. However, due to the chemicals in the water during quarantine, the eggs were not viable. This gives us hope that we will soon have viable eggs to start working with since the fish are out of quarantine and the water free from chemicals. Eggs are approximately 710 microns in diameter, with a central oil globule. Fertilized eggs will float on the waters surface and are skimmed off the surface with egg collectors in the tank.
We canulated the broodstock in an effort to determine what sex ratio and stage of maturity was present in our population. The results were quite shocking. Out of 19 fish that were cannulated only 1 was male. Shouldn’t he be in heaven! Having already spawned we do not think that this will be a major issue, however it may limit fecundity of the group. Our goal is to gather several more males and introduce them to the population. “
MH will keep you posted on this and similar groundbreaking work on marine fish culturing.
Published on July 8th, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
One of the major difficulties in reproducing marine aquarium fish in captivity stems from the limited range of readily cultured planktonic organisms that are readily taken as feed by the tiny fish larvae.
For a few decades hatcheries and hobbyists have been almost entirely reliant on a single species of marine rotifer as a first feed, Brachionus plicatilis. Whilst useful for several species, in particular clownfish, only a limited range of marine fish larvae can be reared using this type of rotifer.
With the mass production of copepods and copepod larvae still being difficult to achieve reliably, the hunt has been on for new live food organisms for first feeding of marine fish.
There is some excitement then at the news that the Tropical Aquaculture Lab at the University of Florida has started working with a type of rotifer that they isolated from wild plankton in their area, Colurella adriatica.
On the Rising Tide Conservation Updates website it is explained that “Once identified, a culture of Colurella was established to not only begin examining the culture characteristics but also its efficacy as a live feed. To date, Colurella has been fed to and consumed by bartletts’ anthias, yellow tang, Pacific and Atlantic blue tangs, ocellated dragonet, leaf scorpionfish, and pomacanthid angelfish larvae. Only the ocellated dragonet and pomacanthid angelfish larvae reached metamorphosis, but mortality in the other species can’t yet be attributed to the use of an inappropriate live feed. In a study conducted at TAL comparing light intensity and feeding incidence within yellow tang larvae; larvae were provided equal amounts of Colurella and Parvocalanus crassirostris (the copepod previously used in yellow tang larval studies at the Oceanic Institute in Hawaii). Of the 480 larvae sampled with food in their gut, all but 7 had only consumed Colurella.”
Breeders both commercial and hobbyist will be watching this development with keen interest.
Published on June 27th, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
I came across this auction on Ebay that, at the time of writing, had a current bid for a single clownfish of $6,100 with 18 hours remaining on the auction.
The attractive markings on these fish are the result of captive breeding, a project that started out with an unusually marked maroon clownfish imported to the United States from Papua New Guinea. The fish for sale are the first generation offspring of this fish.
You can read more about the project itself at their website, The Lightning Project or if you would like to follow the auction, here is the link to the Ebay auction site: F1 PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish.
Published on June 7th, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
A new species of deep water blenny has been discovered in the Caribbean and the description reported in ZooKeys, an open access scientific journal, the description was authored by Carole C. Baldwin of the Smithsonian Institute in the USA and published on the 4th June 2013.
The 21.5mm long fish named Haptoclinus dropi, was caught from a deep reef at around 150 metres below the surface near Curaçao and is the only known specimen ever recorded. Capturing the fish was no accident, a manned submersible, the Curasub was deployed. The sub is used in expanding knowledge of deep-reef Caribbean fish as part of the Smithsonian Institution’s Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP). The manned sub has two flexible hydraulic arms, one of which is armed with a pump that is used to eject doses of the fish anesthetic quinaldine, allowing capture with the other hydraulic arm which contains a suction hose. Ingenious stuff!
It’s a beautiful looking fish, but I don’t think it will be making an appearance in aquariums any time soon due to the deep water habitat. Unless anyone out there already has one in their tank?
Published on June 5th, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
It’s a beautiful and captivating site, but why do they do it? Forget all the conflicting theories; a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in the USA contains an article detailing the findings of Israeli scientists studying the question that has left aquarists guessing over the years, just why do Xenia corals spend so much energy on constantly pulsing?
Xenia corals are the only aquatic animals attached to the sea floor that are known to pulse in that manner. The matter was studied using advanced technology both in the wild and in captivity. The equipment measured water flow using lasers and imaging technology to observe the movement of water around the corals during the pulsing activity. The significant finding from this work was that the uncoordinated pulsing of a Xenia colony produces a significant upward flow of water, effectively mixing and refreshing the water around the colony, presumably to allow gas exchange and constant exposure to a fresh supply of nutrients from the surrounding water, above and beyond what they would receive if not pulsing.
The team also tested a hypothesis that the pulsing action would also improve the corals photosynthesis rate. They found that due to the symbiotic algae that coexist within the tissues of Xenia coral, oxygen can build up in the corals tissue and that this slows the rate of photosynthesis. The pulsing motion was found to help release oxygen from the corals tissues to prevent this problem. They tested this further by adding extra oxygen to the water so that the corals could not get rid of the excess oxygen and found that indeed the photosynthesis rate dropped under these conditions.
Getting even more technical the team also found that the pulsing motions enhance a biochemical process at the enzymatic level that allows the Xenia to photosynthesise more efficiently than other corals. In fact they found that Xenia corals ability to photosynthesise (producing energy) when compared to the respiratory rate (the amount of energy used including the pulsing) is the highest ever measured amongst all corals.
The takeaway message is that the super efficient Xenia corals pulse as despite the energy it costs them to do so, the photosynthetic benefits outweigh these costs as they are so very efficient in comparison to all other corals studied.
MH says:- Xenia are fabulous A+ rated corals for aquarium keepers, get captive bred colonies and have a go at producing new colonies yourself. This is a very rewarding group of corals that is easy and satisfying to produce in aquariums with the minimum of fuss, a good choice for someone just starting out with coral propagation.
Published on June 12th, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor - disclaimer I didn't write this, but I wish I had!
“One of my favourite Steve Jobs stories was the time the engineers working on the iPod brought their finished prototype to him in his office. He said it was too big, they needed to make it smaller. They said it was as small as they could make it, it couldn’t be made any smaller. So he took the prototype over to his aquarium and dropped it in. The iPod sank to the bottom, and as it did, tiny little bubbles came out. ‘See those bubbles,’ he asked. ‘They’re air inside the iPod. Make it smaller.’
“Another story about Steve Jobs was when they brought the prototype for the iPad 2 to his office. The engineers told him it was faster than the first iPad. He took it over to his aquarium and dropped it in. ‘Look how slowly it sank,’ he told them. ‘Make it faster.’
“One time a newly hired intern had been sent out to get Steve a sandwich. When she brought it to him, he looked at it. ‘I thought I ordered the beef on rye,’ he asked. She told him it was indeed beef on rye. He took it over to his fish tank and dropped it in. ‘Does that look like beef on rye?’
“He was always dropping things in that fish tank. We couldn’t stop him. We told him he had to stop, he wouldn’t listen. It was full of stuff that shouldn’t be in an aquarium.
“The fish had all died years ago. One had been crushed under an early generation iMac. The others were all poisoned. He didn’t care.
“It got to the point where there was no room for anything in the fish tank. When we emptied it after he died, we found a body in there. We never found out who it was.”
MH comment – this story was spotted here on the internet and has not been independently verified, but it made me lol.
Published on June 12th, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
This is The Weirdest Aquarium I Have Ever Seen…
I saw this for sale on Ebay and just had to find out more about the Japanese aquarium named the “Qulio” that looks like a cross between Darth Vader’s helmet and a Lamborghini.
This aquarium which you can have delivered worldwide for just £1965 is being sold to house “Sea Angels” a type of free swimming sea slug from the genus Clione found in Arctic conditions, specifically the Sea of Okhotsk is mentioned. Small enough to fit on your desk, this thing keeps your water at an icy 3 degrees Celsius which is pretty amazing in itself. Perhaps it could serve also as a beer cooler if you are unable to find any “Sea Angels” although the advertisement reassuringly mentions that you can “ask your local aquarium shop” as they are not included in the sale. Have you seen any in your local pet store, because I am pretty sure I haven’t, come on LFS, where are you on this!?? Not sure if they deliver, but 3 sets of Clione cost 89,250 yen including tax.
The video states that researchers have found that Clione eat “bait” only once in their lifetime, so they do not need to be fed for maintenance as they will be supplied pre-fed, considering that they also say that the animals can be bred in the Qulio, no mention is made of how you are to feed the offspring. A little online research led me to read that Clione can survive around six months without feeding, probably due to the low temperature keeping their metabolic rate low. The ad also recommends (the classic new marine aquarist’s mistake) topping up any water loss through evaporation with the addition of new salt water (answers on a postcard please).
It may be strange and perhaps unethical to keep sea slugs to slowly starve in a tiny ice cold space age aquarium, but you have to hand it to the Japanese, technically it is rather impressive and I think I want one, just don’t tell anybody.
Published on June 4th, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
A panel of public aquarium professionals recently published an article in Zoo Biology titled “Opportunities for Public Aquariums to Increase the Sustainability of the Aquatic Animal Trade”.
The article starts out by recognising that, in most cases, public aquariums source their livestock through the same channels as the aquarium hobby. It goes on to explain that whilst ornamental fish and corals are removed from the wild each year for the trade “few sustainability initiatives exist within this sector”.
Having identified the fact that public aquariums are in the same boat as home aquarists when it comes to the need to source livestock ethically and sustainably, the authors highlight the fact that public aquariums have gone some way to leading the consumer debate regarding sustainability in the seafood industry in the United States in a manner that has had positive outcomes for wild fish stocks. They then suggest that the same sort of process of educating and influencing could produce positive outcomes in promoting sustainability in the marine aquarium trade.
For me, this is an interesting and timely article. Sourcing of marine livestock from coral reefs normally happens somewhere far away and out of sight. We hope it is done in a sustainable way, but we are not always in full possession of the facts when buying livestock. The ongoing attempts to close the waters around Hawaii to aquarium fish collecting highlight the fact that some aspects of the aquarium trade are seriously out of step with public opinion on this matter. I expect this issue to be a defining issue over the next few years in the marine aquarium hobby.
The big question is just what it will take to make the shift from the current unsatisfactory situation to a fully sustainable, ethically sound, well regulated supply chain? Do public aquariums have a role to play in this? I have my opinions on this, but I would like to invite comments from within the hobby and the industry on this, so if you are reading and have something to say – post your comment!
You can read the full article here for free: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/zoo.21019/abstract
Published on June 4th, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
Controversial Eco Warrior group Sea Shepherd has launched a full frontal attack targeting the complete closure of the marine aquarium fishery in Hawaii as part of their “Operation Reef Defense” campaign.
Whilst I am all in favour of robust sustainability and conservation measures at all stages in the aquarium industry, what struck me as misguided about their campaign was their narrow focus on the aquarium fish collectors. Hawaii, being part of the United States, has one of the best regulated aquarium fisheries in the world, one that could be strengthened further no doubt, and then used as a template for other parts of the world that are less regulated such as SE Asia where the vast majority of marine aquarium fish are sourced.
The strangest part of their message was in a petition that they urge you to sign, stating that: “Other disappearing species taken by the trade are favorite local food fish, like the Achilles Tang.”
From my own experience in The Philippines I have noticed that if high value aquarium fish are collected for food, they are collected by the kilogram (rather than being individually hand caught with great care) and have a market value far lower than their value as sustainably collected aquarium fish. With fish being degraded in value for use as food fish we could expect to see in Hawaii the same practices that occur in SE Asia where common aquarium fish like Moorish Idols, Clown Surgeonfish, Clown Triggers and even Six Barred Angelfish are caught indiscriminately with spear guns, in gill nets or through dynamite fishing and sold cheaply by the kilo for human consumption earning a tiny fraction of their value as live aquarium fish. There is a strong argument that a high value aquarium fishery area is more likely to be protected and managed sustainably than a reef that is used for supplying cheap basic protein for the fish market.
Published on June 4th, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
Qualified MH readers take note, there’s a rare vacancy at the NMA in Plymouth that closes Friday 7th June, so get your applications in if you’re interested. I can personally recommend working there having served there for five years back at the opening period back 1998. World class facility, nice people.
Click for details: M&E Building & Plant Maintenance Technician
The National Marine Aquarium is looking to recruit an experienced M&E Building & Plant Maintenance Technician to join our busy team. Duties will involve the day to day M&E maintenance of a major tourist attraction and associated tasks as required.
This is a permanent position averaging 42 hours per week working a 4 days on/off shift pattern. Due to the nature of our business all applicants should be available to work weekends, school holidays and bank holidays.
Salary negotiable depending on experience.
Ideally you will be qualified to a minimum of 10 years+ experience in the maintenance of plant and building services. You should also have good Mechanical Engineering skills i.e. pumps, fans & HVCA as well as a good appreciation of Health & Safety.
To apply: Please send your full CV with a covering letter setting out your experience and suitability for the role to:
Drew Colenso, Facilities Manager
National Marine Aquarium, Rope Walk, Coxside, Plymouth, PL4 0LF
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Closing Date: Friday 7th June 2013
Published on May 31st, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
WASHINGTON, DC – SeaWeb, an international non-profit ocean conservation organization, announced the grand prize winner of the fifth annual Ocean In Focus photography contest by its Marine Photobank program.
The contest illuminates the human-ocean connection of ocean conservation by highlighting evocative photo stories. The grand prize, a trip for two aboard the National Geographic Endeavour for a 10-day expedition to the Galápagos Islands, was donated by Lindblad Expeditions.
Andy Murch received top marks for his photo essay titled “Gillnets: An Indiscriminate Fishery,” chosen as grand prize winner. For his essay, Murch focused on the wasteful practice of gillnet fishing, specifically in the halibut fishery off Baja California. “We took a leap of faith asking photographers to write, but we were confident that they had the most incredible stories to tell,” said Marine Photobank Manager, Devin Harvey. “Andy’s story takes the reader on a journey illuminating not only the terrible cost of gillnet fishing, but the challenges to reforming global fisheries given the human lives invested in catching, selling and eating fish.” The issue of animal entanglement, bycatch, and wasted protein is graphically illustrated as Murch takes the reader to a vast shark and ray graveyard.
Andy Murch reacted to the news of his win saying, “To be recognized in the field of environmental journalism for my essay on bycatch in the gill net fishery is an extremely rewarding feeling. Although the issues are often hard to bare witness to, I hope that these images inspire other marine photographers to capture not just the majesty of our oceans but also the growing problems that threaten virtually every marine ecosystem.”
Published on May 27th, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
A report issued by the UK Border Force reports this week that: “A Manchester man has been jailed after Border Force caught him attempting to smuggle endangered corals and clams into the UK.
At Crown Square Crown Court on Wednesday (22 May), 23-year-old Alex Montgomery of Mottram Old Road, Stalybridge in Greater Manchester was sentenced to six months for trying to smuggle over 750 kilograms of rare and endangered corals and clams from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
Montgomery pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to smuggle the animals after he was arrested by officers from Border Force at the airport in May last year.
Over 650 species of live hard corals and around 60 live clams, some which were 20cm long, were found in 36 boxes labelled “Marine fish and Soft Corals.” Further investigations revealed 120 protected species at his business premises at Rowe Cross Industrial Park, Mottram in Hyde. These were seized along with his computer, which had information regarding his business dealings with foreign suppliers.
The animals, which are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), were discovered in air freight sent from Vietnam as Border Force officers examined the cargo that arrived on a flight on Friday 4 May. None of the undeclared items had any accompanying CITES documentation and were consequently seized.
Vicky Allan, Assistant Director of Border Force, said:
"The illicit trade in endangered animals is a serious contributory factor to the threat of extinction faced by many endangered species. Border Force takes its role in enforcing international agreements and prohibitions designed to protect the natural environment very seriously. Anyone trading in protected creatures and plants should ensure they have the right paperwork before they import exotic animals into the UK. Anyone with information about activity they suspect may be linked to smuggling should contact the Border Force hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
Final thoughts from MH: What is not made clear from the Border Force communication is whether the sentenced man had intentionally been involved in smuggling or had fallen foul of a technicality in navigating the huge amount of paperwork from multiple agencies that are required to import marine aquarium livestock into our country. If you know more about this case, perhaps from experience as a customer of Mr. Montgomery, please comment on this story.
Published on May 18th, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
This won’t be one for everyone, I don’t know that it’s really news, but: DIY loving aquarists be warned, this website could potentially waste hours of your time (but in a good “Particle-based Visoelastic Fluid Simulation” kind of way). Not since I started designing aquarium systems using Google’s Sketchup free 3D design software have I got this excited about a computer program. Well it’s not exactly a program, it’s a website that allows you to mess about with water, in fact it does what it’s name Water Fluid Simulation suggests.
I found this website quite by accident when I was looking for a way to model how water would flow around a new aquarium system design that I had in mind. It looks like nothing much at first, a very basic looking site, but click the WATER tab and click on the workspace and you’ll start seeing what it’s about. Water comes out at the click of a button and your carpet will not get wet.
Click on this link to have a go: fun for diy aquarists
You can use this thing to simulate flow of water through sumps, overflows and baffles etc while you are designing your next aquarium build. Or, you can just mess about with it. The picture I pasted with this post shows my “aquarium” at the top with a sump beneath. Water is blasted up to the aquarium through the “pipe” that I drew at the left using the AIR function which can be used to simulate the use of a pump (just try it). It then overflows at the right hand side and falls through my “biotower” back into the sump. You use the “WALL” function to build the pipes and tanks etc, it’s very easy to use and horribly addictive, or maybe that’s just me? You can also add some “OIL” and “FOAM” which could help you visualise where to place an overflow to catch that oily scum that sometimes appears in aquariums. Last but not least, it gives you three rubber ducks to play with – no fish yet, I shall have to write to the creator…
I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as I have, it actually helped me reconsider how to design part of my my next aquarium build on my first day using it. If you know of other modelling tools that might be useful for DIY aquarium builders, submit a comment.
Published on May 17th, 2013 | by Dylan Taylor
I received a message today with a video clip, from Christiane Schmidt of the “Sustainable Aquarium Industry Association” also known as SAIA. It shows unique footage of the preparation and use of home made explosives using nothing more than empty brandy bottles, sand, fertilizer and fire crackers. The video captures a glimpse of how small scale fishermen make a meager living through the dangerous practice of dynamite fishing with improvised explosives. Although Christiane states that “dynamite fishing is not an applied method in aquarium fisheries in the Philippines, nor elsewhere” she goes on to explain why the video has been included in a SAIA exhibition on the marine aquarium fishery in South East Asia. Christiane explains that
“This video unveils the reasoning of poor fishermen in Asia to use destructive fishing methods: They are cheap, they are effective and they provide a relatively high yield at low effort. Forced by the low prices paid for their product and lack of negotiating power, these fishermen will just try to make the most out of nothing. This is not only true for dynamite fishing, but for cyanide use as well.”
The message ends by looking at what may be required to improve the situation in the regions where many aquarium fish are sourced, focusing on the fact that marginalized fishermen aren’t likely to be able to change their situation without radical improvements in governance in the regions in question, concluding that “any change in respect to environmental awareness and an attitude towards conservation will only develop when fishermen benefit from social justice and development in the same time.”
I recommend that everyone watches this video. If nothing else it will give you a better idea of the communities and conditions in which aquarium fishermen live. This kind of footage is rare and hard to obtain due to the dangers involved in covering illegal activities, both to the film makers and the participants. It is worthy of praise for bringing a hidden activity out into the light.
Here are a few of the images that I have captured to support my written material.
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