ALL THE PRETTY FISH AND THE PRICE PAID TO TANK THEM
The Hawai'ian Islands are ground zero for the aquarium trade who capture and traffic reef fish for hobbyists’ tanks, decimating the reef, ocean and earth’s oxygen. Native Hawai'ians, conservationists, scientists, aquarium fish collectors and breeders are locked in a controversy over the stunning “treasure of Hawai'i” – the ornamental fish.
The Hawai'i aquarium trade has been catching reef fish for U.S. and global hobby tanks for decades. There have been no catch limits, no limit on the number of catchers, and no constraints on rare, endemic or vanishing species. Fish advocates report that the number of fish has decreased drastically, affecting the hierarchy of marine wildlife, and believe removing fish from their natural habitat should be forbidden.
Reef-based tourism generates hundreds of millions in Hawai'i annually, and many Hawai'i residents want aquarium collecting banned.
Others make their living from catching and supplying exotic fish to hobbyists, and still others breed fish in captivity to fill U.S. and global demand.
The lucrative trade who depend on reef wildlife to populate the tanks, and to drive sales of tanks and paraphernalia resist any change to the supply chain of reef wildlife caught in the reef.
The Dark Hobby is an entertaining expose on this crisis, and the ongoing political struggle. At any given moment, 28 million fish are in the aquarium trade pipeline from point of capture to home hobbyist tank. They represent over 1800 species, and many die within a year of capture, generating even more demand.
Our understanding of the hierarchy of fish living on the reef is increasing. Current scientific research reveals that fish have much greater intelligence then previously known, including recognizing human faces, feeling pain, and making plans. The search for solutions continues. Will the fish be protected?
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