Since the announcement of SAIA (Sustainable Aquarium Industry Association) we’ve been receiving encouraging mails and calls supporting our vision. The following letter I received by email from a prospective reefkeeper who found out about SAIA after a search for “sustainable marine aquariums” on Google came up with a link to my article on Reef Ramblings about SAIA.
Had tropical fish when I was young, been told cannot do sport this year by my doctor for medical reasons, so as got some time on my hands thought I could use this to potentially set up a saltwater tank.
As it has been some years I thought the industry would be professional now, but can honestly say I was horrified when I checked out the LFS’s. Many freshwater tanks have fish floating around in them, obviously dead for some time (gone furry) and generally don’t look too healthy. Found saltwater conditions a bit better (presume because they are more expensive) but after some research was saddened to find me constantly given bad advice, such as “yeah these Nano tanks are great for beginners, I have 5 fish in mine”, ummm don’t think them 5 fish will last for long in 45 litres!
Have found a LFS with good conditions, and with an interest in the fishes well being and when asked he could tell me where they came from, that his live rock is not natural and can provide me with traceability, but no MAC cert. It seems no one does have MAC cert?
I started off just wanting to try a new hobby out, I do though have ethics, am concerned about the environment and sustainability (I admit though I do eat meat and fish!), the more I read about saltwater though, cyanide etc, the more I find myself in disbelief.
Looks like SAIA could be the answer, I hope it goes well. Can you tell me, can I do this hobby whilst somehow helping conservation? Can I by keeping saltwater fish somehow help conservation? It would be nice if my interest in this hobby could also do good. I have of lately been thinking of getting involved somehow in conservation and if I could do this with my hobby that would be great!
Thanks for your interest Keith.
Your experience in checking out the LFSs is not really surprising, I’d guess that in the UK poorly run shops, giving poor advice, far out number the responsible well-informed ones.
It is sad and distressing to realize that the aquarium industry in the UK is virtually unregulated. Yes, aquarium shops must possess a pet shop license but this requirement is of very little significance; the requirements for a pet shop license vary around the UK depending on the local authority involved, in some areas it seems that the license can be arranged via the phone and just requires the payment of the fee, in others an inspection is carried out (usually by a council employee with no special knowledge of the trade) which seems to merely look at how tidy the premises are, and rarely their local council may require the owner to have a certificate demonstrating some rudimentary knowledge of pet care (not necessarily relevant to the aquarium industry).
Personally I find this unacceptable, especially where marine organisms are involved.
Membership of OATA, the UK aquarium industry trade association, doesn’t appear to be that effective an indicator of quality, seeing as membership isn’t inspected or policed, with a certain percentage of the membership merely appearing to use membership as a “badge of respectability”.
Nano tanks, ah there’s a conundrum! Aquarists have been keeping small volume reef tanks for years but given the recent popularity of Nanos it’s encouraged beginners with little knowledge to start small reefs and all too often the temptation is there to add “just one more fish”. Shops should know better, but this is actually one area where generally the shops aren’t at fault, rather it’s the over enthusiastic hobbyist. I frequently hear from retailers, that after informing a customer that he or she has all the fish their reef can support at its current stage of development, that it’s not unusual for the customer to return a week or two later complaining of losing fish – that they’ve purchased from another shop after being told not to add any further fishes!! This is an area where the hobbyist needs to be educated but unfortunately only a minority buys magazines or books these days.
MAC membership and certification – the lack of take up in the UK is a further mystery to me. There has only ever been one shop certified in the UK (apparently no longer trading) and I was in part responsible for encouraging this shop to sign up. So the question for me has to be what has TMC been doing over the past few years? Why have they never managed to encourage a single shop in the UK to become certified?
It’s partly due to this failure of MAC presence in the retail sector that has caused SAIA to come into being.
Can you participate in this hobby while aiding conservation? Briefly, yes you can, but at the moment it will require some diligence on your behalf. Indeed there are at least two separate ways of doing so.
The first is the way you started off, questioning retailers about the provenance of their stock, and trying to buy only animals that have been collected in a responsible manner.
The second way would be to concentrate on purchasing only captive bred and / or aquacultured animals. For example, there’s little excuse for buying wild collected clowns when they are readily available captive bred, see Reef Ramblings June/July 2008 for more on this subject.
Any questions or comments, or if there are any particular topics you’d like to see covered here, please feel free to get in touch with me: email@example.com
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