Reading the March edition of the diving magazine “Unterwasser“, JBL biologist Heiko Blessin came across a report which was somewhat disconnected from reality. He rang the editor of the magazine and was given the opportunity to write the following counter statement in the current issue 05-2017 (and the diving magazine took the opportunity to commission another report about marine aquatics while they were at it):
“The biologist Monica Biondo has written in a sensationalist manner about the disaster of coral fish being fished off the reefs, because supposedly up to 80 % die before reaching an aquarium. With that she is thus taking the same line as the PETA environmentalists who presented similar figures to the federal government in order to obtain a ban on the import of exotic pets (including marine fish).
During a meeting with environmental activists, animal rights activists and representatives of the federal government I was able to refute these imaginary figures plausibly and factually. German marine fish importers have disclosed figures which show a loss rate of 1.5-3.0 % during the transport. The study Ms Biondo cites is from 2003 and is no longer relevant, but it fits into her worldview.
Catching marine fish even leads to a protection of the reef in the animals’ home areas and, as with Whale Watching, provides a source of income for locals, whereas catching fish using dynamite not only kills the edible fish but all the other fish and invertebrates. Aquarium fish catchers are often successful in preventing their fellow countrymen from applying blast fishing.
The marine fish trade isn’t booming, but has been stagnating for many years (source: annual IVH figures). On the whole the whole field of marine aquatics has changed for the good: thanks to light modelled on sunlight, effective technology and professional care products we are now not only able to maintain corals and fish for years, but also breed them so successfully that many aquarium owners have coral offshoots or clownfish offspring to give away.
The Banggai cardinalfish which, according to Monica Biondo, are extremely vulnerable can so easily be bred that we hardly ever receive a fish captured from the wild, it is mainly offspring from Southeast Asia which arrive here. The largest importer of ornamental fish, EFS from Sonnefeld, exclusively imports offspring (marginally more expensive than wild fish) from Indonesia. This also explains why Indonesia didn’t make an application for the protection of this fish species at the CITES species protection conference. The only really serious situation is that the Banggai cardinalfish are now no longer to be found only in their original habitat but also at other locations, e.g. at the Lembeh Strait, where they really don't belong. There are too many of them! But alarming news of animals dying out generates high ratings – and not only on television. Dear divers – stay discerning and question such statements. No species has ever died out through pet keeping! Not a single animal rights activist in the world has been able to disprove this claim so far! You can keep your marine aquariums with a clear conscience and you don’t need to auction them through ebay. Unfortunately pollution is and remains the reefs’ main adversary. “