New group to examine benefits of fishkeeping hobby


The trade association which represents the ornamental fishkeeping industry in the UK has been invited to sit on an international group looking at how the home aquarium industry can help protect the environment and prevent poverty.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has created a new Home Aquarium Fish Sub-group and invited luminaries from across the globe to join its steering committee. The group is chaired by Scott Dowd, a senior aquarist at the New England Aquarium in the US, who also helped spearhead Project Piaba in Brazil, building a sustainable industry in Cardinal tetras.

The group has big ambitions for the future — including an idea to harness the inspiring power of public aquariums to encourage people to create their own home tank.

Its inaugural meeting will be at May’s Aquarama event in Singapore where it will agree a consensus statement and mission statement for the group, which is likely to outline the group’s view that the home aquarium industry can play an important part in protecting the environment and help to lessen poverty.

It will also launch work on a White Paper, which will include case studies from around the world showing how the home aquarium industry is providing environmental and socio-economic benefits to the communities that catch fish.

And it has ambitions to work with public aquariums around the world to develop a programme that uses these organisations to educate and inspire the visiting public about keeping home aquariums and how to choose fish that support communities involved in sustainable management.

The UK-based Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA) has been invited to sit on the international group. Its Chief Executive Keith Davenport says: "We know that live fish sold to the home aquarium industry are more valuable than dead fish caught for food and we know, from organisations like Project Piaba, that this industry can help to protect environments such as the Amazonas by providing livelihoods.

"In an atmosphere of increasing antagonism towards keeping exotic and wild caught pets — which includes ornamental fish — it’s vital we start to show that keeping fish is not a ‘bad’ thing to do. There is a place for wild caught fish — not all species kept in marine aquariums can be captive-bred for example — and we need the industry and hobbyists to realise they can be contributing to feeding families who don’t have a lot of alternatives.

"I particularly like the sound of Scott’s idea to see how zoos, aquariums and the mainstream conservation, academic and development communities can work with the global home aquarium trade to get the next generation excited about beneficial home fishkeeping. It’s a really exciting proposal to work with public aquariums. If these places can start to play a part in inspiring people to make informed decisions to set up their own aquarium at home and look after their fish properly then that can only benefit our industry and the communities that supply us."

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