Thursday, August 4, 2016

Collecting Aquarium Fish

Have you ever been to a restaurant or hotel that had a large saltwater aquarium? These aquariums may be beautiful to look at, but did you ever wonder where the fish come from?

With the recent release of the movie, Finding Dory, some scientists are concerned about an increase in demand for saltwater fish that have been collected in the wild. Despite the message in the first film, Finding Nemo, that saltwater fish belong in the ocean, not in a tank, there was an increase in demand for clownfish after the movie's release .

But, did you know that nearly all of the fish that are purchased for saltwater aquariums have been caught in the wild. This is very different for the fish you find in freshwater aquariums. Many species of freshwater fish can be bred in captivity before being sold to the public.

Millions of saltwater fish are collected for the aquarium trade every year. The result is that some saltwater fish are disappearing from the reef. Collectors hope to make big profits by selling fish to pet stores, but there are many negative effects of removing these fish from the reef.

First, populations of some fish are declining. Secondly, by removing certain species, collectors are changing the natural balance on the reef. For example, removing herbivores may cause algae to overgrow and smother the reef. Finally, some collectors may disturb or destroy habitat in order to collect the fish that they are after.

Most of the fish that are collected in the wild never even make it to an aquarium.  For every fish that arrives alive, many more fish will die on the way! The fish that do make it to an aquarium often die within the first week. Many will survive just one year, where in their natural environment they may live for decades.

While it is unlikely that you would find a clownfish or regal blue tang in Hawaii, Hawaii is the number one spot for collecting yellow tangs. There are few regulations in place to protect them, and monitoring the damage and effects of collecting is hard to monitor.
So what can you do help reduce the negative effects of aquarium collecting? If you want to view these beautiful marine fish, the best thing to do is to visit an accredited aquarium, watch a documentary, or take an eco-sensitive snorkeling tour.

If you must have an aquarium at home, choose a freshwater aquarium or choose only species that have been bred in captivity. If you see a regal blue tang for sale, know that it was not bred in captivity and has been collected in the wild.

Some species of clownfish are now being bred in captivity to reduce the demand for wild-caught fish. Nursery bred clownfish are a better choice, but just because you see one in a pet store, does not mean that it has been nursery bred. You must ask to see certification. This is just one example of how you can help protect these resources for future generations.

This article was excerpted from Hawaii Author, Monika Mira's new book, Finding the True Stars of the Ocean. This book brings to light many of the issues that are faced by coral reefs and underwater habitats while educating kids about the species that live on a coral reef.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Redbarred Hawkfish

This Redbarred Hawkfish was spotted at Ke'e Beach yesterday. Redbarred Hawkfish are common on the North Shore of Kauai, but I rarely see them on the South Shore. The nice thing about Hawkfish is that they will pose for you. They use their pectoral fins to "perch" themselves on rocks where they wait for their prey. They tend to stay pretty still, which means, I could get a nice photo.

This was only one of a few fish however, that were spotted at Ke'e at all. The sheer number of people visiting this beach has taken an extreme toll on the environment. Notice the amount of algae growing on the reef in this picture. There is an obvious nutrient problem here, uncertain of its source, but something is going on for sure here. I would recommend steering clear of Ke'e to give it a break. Choose to go to Tunnels down the road a bit (though Tunnels is seeing quite an impact too) but the area is a little larger. Hawkfish are extremely common at Tunnels, so you will be sure to see one of these guys perched on the reef posing for a picture.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Whale Shark spotted on Kauai Snorkeling Trip

Photo: Christian Steen, CC-BY
A Whale Shark was spotted on one of the Na Pali snorkel tours on Kauai just a couple weeks ago. This is not very common, but for those who saw it, an unforgettable experience. If you are looking to see a whale shark on Kauai, you will have to get into deeper water and snorkel or dive often, even then, you may not be lucky enough to encounter one of these gentle giants...Luckily there is plenty of other fascinating undersea wildlife to see if you snorkel on Kauai like: Pacific Green Sea Turtles, Moray Eels, Parrotfish, Wrasses, Surgeonfish, Butterflyfish and even Manta Rays.

Did you know that the Whale Shark is considered to be the biggest fish in the sea? That's right! A Whale Shark is about as big as a bus! Don't worry though, Whale Sharks are graceful filter feeders, so it unlikely that one would gobble you up. Want to learn more fun fish facts, you can purchase FUN FISH FACTS for KIDS from the Amazon Kindle Store.

Disclaimer: (No, this photo was not taken on Kauai, but I needed one for the blog post)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Snorkeling update for Kauai's South Shore

Normally the summers on Kauai’s South Shore are too rough for good snorkeling. This had to be the mildest summer in history. The surfers were grumbling, but divers and snorkelers were taking advantage of all the flat summer days in beautiful South Shore locations like Poipu Beach and Lawai Beach.

Did you know that some of the best snorkeling on Kauai can be done from shore? That’s right, there is no need to get on a boat here, just get your gear and head out from shore. Sure, summer’s almost over, but the fall and winter months are the best months for snorkeling at South Shore beaches anyways. In fact the abundance and diversity of fish found especially at Lawai Beach is better than any other location on the island.

Large schools of Raccoon Butterflyfish and Orangeband Surgeon fish are common here as are wrasses of all colors, shapes, and sizes. Here you can watch the Rockmover Wrasse picking up and moving rocks by spitting them out. It’s a sight to see if you have never seen it before. Territorial Damselefish will chase other brightly colored reef fish from their algae patches and wrasses will fight over food. If you are lucky (or early) you may get treated to seeing a Pacific Green Sea Turtle. These graceful giants of the sea tend to frequent the area in search of their favorite food.

It’s a whole other world below the surface. It is also a whole new world in the ocean for visitors that have never snorkeled before. Here are some tips to help you have an enjoyable and safe experience: Always remember to take some time to see where the best place to enter the water is (clue: look for sand, avoid the rocks). Make sure your gear fits. Put your fins on in the water. Always swim with a partner. Snorkel at lifeguarded beaches until you are comfortable. Ask the locals questions.

If you are going to snorkel at this wonderful location it is important to know that there is a strong current that runs east to west. The safest way to avoid this current, is to look at the resort across the street and make note of the “Lawai Beach Resort” sign. Do not allow yourself to drift west beyond this sign, because this is where the current becomes extremely strong and dangerous. If you can stay on the eastern side of this landmark it can help keep you out of trouble.

The most important thing is to enjoy yourself. If you or your kids want to learn more about Hawaii’s marine life, you can pick up one of the many books on the subject like, The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book, Hawaii’s Green Sea Turtles or Fun Fish Facts for Kids.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Clownfish in Hawaii?

Photo: Julie Bedford, NOAA
Did you know that there are no Clownfish in Hawaiian waters? Clownfish can be only be found in the western IndoPacific. This is because Clownfish are linked to certain species of large anemones, which are not found in Hawaiian waters. However, many people confuse the juvenile Yellowtail Coris for a Clownfish when diving in Hawaii because of its coloration. Juvenile Yellowtail Coris are common to see in the summer time.
Photo: John Coney UHH MOP, Juvenile Yellowtail Coris