A Philosophy of Reefkeeping, Part 3

In this, the third part of my thoughts on reefkeeping as a hobby, I finally get to the part about why our hard-earned dollars should go towards finding more sensible ways to prevent the killing of pretty living things over longer periods of time.

Yep, the frags arrived dead.  Nobody’s fault but the snow’s – I’ll eat the temporary loss and the gentleman has agreed to replace them, so let’s note their passing and move on.  In Part I , conservation and preservation were clarified, and in Part II, is is accepted that there is significant loss of livestock in reefkeeping because the livestock in the tanks are unwittingly participating in an ongoing experiment in which we try to find ways to avoid killing them.

Now, if we accept that there’s such a high rate of churn on livestock that we might as well be keeping cut hothouse flowers in a glass vase, it’s certainly appropriate to question the morality of reefkeeping as a hobby.  Some might argue that the right thing to do is to shut down all harvesting and collection from the reefs altogether, to shut down the livestock experimentation mill and let the reefs exist untouched.

Wouldn’t it be nice if this happened?  Maybe then we can also find the unicorns.

The Royal Angelfish is doomed to harvest because of its bad luck to be freakin' spectacular.

The Royal Angelfish is doomed to harvest because of its bad luck to be absolutely freakin' spectacular.

Face facts, people.  Fish are pretty.  Or interesting, or weird, or whatever.  Human beings like to keep animals as pets; they like to keep pretty things around them; they like to engage in unique or unusual activities that set them apart from the rest of the pack.  And if we were to create some sort of Arbitrary Spectrum of Destructiveness, reefkeeping as a hobby pales in comparison to skiing (in which mountains are literally transformed) or NASCAR (petroleum + metal + sponsorship = metric tons of waste).  I did my senior thesis on the environmental costs associated with the entertainment industry, so trust me on this or I’ll break out statistics.

Reefkeeping is here to stay, so let’s at least get it right.  And we get it right through engaging in two simple but specific purchasing habits.

First, we are aware of the source of our livestock.  This isn’t limited to our local LFS – we need to be aware of where they get the livestock that they sell to us.  We – not them – are the end of the supply chain.  We have to recognize that how we spend our dollars is an investment in the health of the reef itself.

Second, we have to create the best environment possible for the livestock we keep in our tanks.  As the end user, it’s up to us to reduce livestock churn as much as we can.  We do this through investing in hardware that meets the needs of what we want to keep, and by stocking our tanks with livestock that is compatable with not only the environment we have created but with their fellow tank inhabitants.

If we follow these two very simple common-sense practices, we participate in sustainable conservation of the reefs.  We also recognize that we are participating in an ongoing experiment but are attempting to do so in a way that demonstrates care and consideration for the livestock in our tanks.  There will be losses, but as we continue to promote aquaculture, we will be offered a greater variety of animals that have been tank-raised and are better-suited for our artificial environments.

It won’t happen overnight, but at some point we’ll be able to separate the hobby from the reef.  The livestock experimentation mill will gradually slow down as we learn precisely what our animals require and we develop the tools and hardware that meet their needs.

Finally, let’s take a moment to address the concerns of those hobbyists who are interested in saltwater tanks but who don’t want to spend the money to support companies that promote aquaculture, engage in conservation or preservation, or a combination of these.  They don’t want to invest in appropriate lighting or hardware (not the most expensive, just the most appropriate), or purchase net-caught cyanide-free fish from conscientious collectors, or complain that coral from an aquacultured lineage line is too expensive. To those persons, there is really only one thing you can say, and that’s shut up.  Shut up, you stupid, selfish jerk.  You knew this was an expensive hobby when you started.  If you don’t think it’s worth it to do it right, don’t do it at all.  Your attitude and your purchasing habits cause more harm than good, so do everyone a favor and find a hobby that doesn’t involve the care of living things.

It’s a beautiful day so I’m off to play.  Tah.

~ by KBSpangler on March 7, 2009.

One Response to “A Philosophy of Reefkeeping, Part 3”

  1. […] I mentioned I was waiting on some frags that had been delayed by the snow; in a follow-up post, I noted the frags had arrived dead.  Well, the gentleman who sold them to me was good enough to send me a second batch to replace the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: