Live Rock, Corals, Reefs, and Conservation

Short thoughts and essays ...

by birdfish

First, an introduction and overview. While it may seem like I am ranting sometimes, other times I actually will be.   smile  Actually what I am most disturbed about is the hypocrisy in our world, so pervasive it even invades our little world of marine aquarium keeping. I detest unfairness and inequality, especially when it comes to politics and conservation.

We can harvest fish to eat, as long as we don't over harvest. The same goes for ornamental fish, corals, or live rock. There has to be balance. The world has for example fished out the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, considered the greatest never-ending fish supply in the North Atlantic when I grew up. It's gone. There are no fish there to catch and eat. There was no balance.

There are different kinds of environmental groups. Those that use good science to drive their thinking, those that use emotion (screamin' greenies), and those like "the oil, mining, and timber industry council on wise use." They are not all what they appear to be. Some are really trying to do the right thing. Some are special interest groups of industry and others are little more than people with too much time and no brains.

There are some groups out there acting as if they are conservation organizations that want to make decisions about the world's resources and how they should be used, that in reality have little to no actual experience with the situations involved. More than one group wants to ban any and all live coral, fish, and rock collection. These groups generally share one thing in common: mis-guided mis-information and their spin-doctors' disemination of it. More than one group says that live rock is chipped or blasted off the reef. They do not really know what live rock is. To publish it on a website for public consumption is ignorant and irresponsible. Two of these websites sell Florida aquacultured live rock by lying.

Another says that thousands of fish for the aquarium trade are dead on arrival. They don't say it is 1-2% of the total and those were on flights that were diverted and or delayed. The whole truth and nothing but the truth is not what screaming greenies are about. It's sound bytes and hyperbole. Just like the polluters. Where is the balance?

The simple fact is that stopping collection would mostly hurt people who live at poverty levels none of the folks yakin' would be able to live at. More reefs have been dredged and steam-shoveled for ports and harbors for money-making for business and-or government than will ever be collected by all of the collectors in the world ever put together, by many factors.

Thousands of reefs are in trouble due to pollution, siltation, ocean warming. If we as a planet and most of all in the consumption crazy U.S., do not stop what we are doing and change the way we live as a whole, "the save the reefs" cry is a bunch of hooey. At the rate we are going, they will all be dead before your grandkids are.   Aren’t there more important things to fight and stop than coral collection for study and propagation?

Corals were listed as a CITES item STRICTLY to control trade since live corals were being killed just for the trinket and shell trade. Live coral or live rock collection is the least of the threats to reefs. Unlike any animal group in the world that is listed, there are no remotely accurate estimates of the numbers (because they are astronomical). No reef was ever destroyed because of ornamental collection. Dynamite fishing has destroyed many reefs, but has nothing to do with the ornamental fish industry. Blown up fish and corals are not sellable.

We now have reports that up to a third of the corals in the Carribbean are dead or dying. RIGHT NOW !! A THIRD !! One star brain (Monastrea) was 13' tall and 850 years old! That's how bad it is out there! The best thing would be for genetic banks with samples of EVERY islands' corals being maintained somewhere else away from the problem. Get some of these corals in the hands of collectors, propagators, coral farmers, hobbyists, etc., as soon as possible, as many types as possible. You cannot restock the Atlantic with Pacific corals. We should have gene banks of every animal and plant possible for us to keep. A volunteer force of hobbyists is actually the only realistic way to do something along these lines now. We have the knowledge, know-how, and technique to do it. Probably just a lack of political will.

Seahorses were listed as a CITES item not to contol the hobby of keeping seahorses. It was the 20,000 metric tons of dried seahorses a year being sold in China as an aphrodisiac that drove the need to list them. The hobby probably does not account for 1% of the wild seahorses caught annually. Further, most of those keeping them have one goal: breed 'em. How would stopping this be a benefit? When all the people taking them for the wrong reasons have taken them all, screamin' greenies will come to the hobbyists, collectors, breeders, for broodstock.

Most fish drug collecting ever done has been driven by the publics' desire for a "dollar damsel" over a $5-10 hand-caught one. Indonesia and Bali now often have a worse class or grade of fish than the Phillipines. There are lots of great things from the Phillipines that never were drug-caught, yet the slandering hurt their reputation for everything. It's still the best place to buy some items. There are good and bad suppliers in every part of the world.

Most of the fish and corals arrive to the U.S. alive and well most of the time. It is the only way the business could survive.

While we concentrate on marine fish, the hobby was built on freshwater fish. When Neon Tetras and Angelfish first came out of South America, they went to Europe on the Hindenberg !! In the 70 years since, billions and billions have been bred in captivity.

They created a hobby that could be argued to be the most environmentally enlightening hobby one could have inside their house. Thousands and thousands of people have made a living breeding these fish from Asia to America, making millions more environmentally aware, filling them with joy and happiness, and some even making a career of it!! And the screamin' greenies think we shouldn't take fish? What has this hurt? Who are they protecting from what?

Several years ago, the lobster and cucumber fisherman in the Galapagos Islands were told their doubled numbers were taking too great a toll on the local environment. The products were being sold to Asia for consumption. When Ecuador announced limits, the fisherman took ancient giant tortoises hostage, rampaged the rangers' houses and drove them out and the Ecuadoran government backed down. So the overfishing continues. Where's them screamin' greenies when you need them!?!

A million albatrosses a year are drowned by longline fishing methods. Miles of baited hooks on lines. There are proven easy cheap ways to stop it. We aren't doing anything about it. Albatrosses can live 50 years, and mate for life, which if you haven't noticed is better than most people do. Fishing techniques around the world are killing more biomass as "bycatch" (what they didn't want in their nets-hooks) than they take! We cannot continue the way we are going, or nothing is going to matter. Is there anybody out there?

We here in America still test missles from Vandenburg Air Force Base in CA, shooting into the atolls in the Marshall Islands, (besides formerly testing our nukes there*) and someone thinks we shouldn't pick up some broken dead old corals we call live rock? You gotta be kiddin' me !?!

Also see ... Bikini Atoll Page - Earth Observatory

Regarding the Bikini Atoll ... the link above describes the events around the March 1954 hydrogen bomb, which was detonated on the surface of the reef in the Bikini Atoll, in which "millions of tons of sand, coral, plant and sea life the reef and surrounding lagoon waters were sent high into the air by the blast."

The U.S. military blows up islands regularly for target practice, many of which are major seabird nesting colonies, besides what lives under the surface at these targets. The good environmental groups have had to sue the U.S. Government to save, for instance, one of the most important colonies in the entire Caribbean with over a million nesting seabirds.

We (our government) are blowing up (or have blown up) more reefs than are taken by collectors, generally to love and cherish, to worship and frag, not perish. I guess the anti-coral collectors realize they are out-gunned by our military, so they pick on a few little small easy targets, like a bully does.

Most people are doing lots of things that are detrimental to the environment. The best thing to do is to have as little impact as possible. Practice the 3 R's: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Half of America is in SUV's, idling with the AC on at 70 degrees, we're so spoiled. Cumulatively in time that will kill more corals than collecting live ones will.

Haiti's reefs were 98% destroyed by siltation due to the complete logging of their half of the island of Hispaniola. Not by fish and coral collectors. 50% of Sri Lanka's reefs were ground up as their only local source of limestone for cement and are in their roads and buildings. It was not the fish and coral collectors.

In both places, they would have been better off sending a bunch of their stuff to people who would have cultured it! At least they’d have a source for restocking of pure correct gene pools.

There are an estimated 100 MILLION feral cats now living in the U.S., killing an estimated BILLION birds at year. How long can our bird populations sustain this type of unnatural loss? Native birds eat billions of dollars in pest bugs and weeds annually, and are worth more to us in a variety of ways than flea-infested, diseased, neglected cats. Cats live longer healthier lives indoors. Well-fed cats still hunt, and bells have miniscule effect since birds do not recognize bells as predators. Another myth an industry created to sell you something. No predator rang a bell before it attacked a bird, so amazingly they don't recognize it as a warning, but the bell salesman thought it sounded good. It's not that I hate cats ... they just don't belong in natural habitats. I hope that the people telling us that we shouldn't collect corals aren't the same people who support feral cats in our native habitats. This is the type of hypocrisy I'm talking about.

What about these hundreds (soon to be thousands) of PYTHONS in the Everglades !?!?!?! You folks who want to go save an animal, how about headin' down there and helping the environment out and getting some of THAT ecological disaster waiting to happen cleared up? We are totally screwing up OUR OWN environment left and right everywhere I look. I see darn few people doing much about it. But there's a vocal few who believe those who blows hardest & longest wins. Why don't they care about all the animals the non-native snakes will eat?

Wild feral hogs, like cats, are out of control across America. There are many areas totaling millions of acres where the native wildlife is wiped out due to these beasts that don't belong here. Reptiles particularly are hit hard, but so are all ground-nesting birds (including many game birds like Turkey and Quail). Goats and sheep have also destroyed millions of acres, denuding the land to a moonscape.

Screamin' greenies sue the wildlife biologist agencies when things are so bad they have to step in. One group sued to save the RATS on an island off southern California that were eating EVERY bird nest, egg, or baby! The rats are non-native, the birds part of our natural fauna, and these folks think they have the wisdom and authority to enforce their will on good sound science? Goats, sheep, pigs, rats, and cats have been dumped on thousands of islands around the world, with catrostrophic results, wreaking havoc with the natural ecosystems. The screamin' greenies waste your tax dollars when U.S. Fish & Wildlife has to prove every instance in court over and over. We know they suck, and have to go, just like water puts out fire. You want to save the pig, put it in your yard. See how long that lasts.

Bug Zappers kill 99.9% NON-TARGET species. That is almost everything they kill is not what you are after. Mosquitoes. Most of what they kill are beneficial insects. But, an industry is making millions if not billions, doing the worst possible thing for the environment, because the public doesn't know better. Where are the screamin' greenies on this senseless slaughter of beneficial insects? I guess it's easier to pick on some little coral guys, than a couple big 'ol manufacturers with high paid lawyers.

We hope you have enjoyed some of these "off-beat" points of view ... we may have more in the future, so watch out!

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