CAPS campaigners attack UK public aquaria
A report from an animal welfare group called the Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS) has attacked the UK's public aquarium industry and wants it to be shut down.
According to The Independent, CAPS commissioned a report into welfare in British public aquaria which was undertaken by Jordi Casamitjana, a zoologist and former zoos expert for the Born Free Foundation. Casamitjana is said to have based the study on visits to 33 of the UK's 51 public aquaria.
The Independent claims that the investigation has been backed by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).
The CAPS report, called "Sufferring Deep Down" alleges that benthic rays and sharks at 20 aquariums showed surface-breaking behaviour because they were "trained" to feed from the surface. It also claims that fish at 75% of the aquaria showed signs of scars and deformity and that few of the aquaria were actually involved in conservation projects, despite creating the impression that they were.
The RSPCA's marine scientific officer, Laila Sadler, told The Independent that "tens of thousands of fish die in British aquariums each year while thousands die in transit to them". She is reported to have likened the report to previous exposes of poor animal welfare in zoos.
CAPS claims that their study supports their case for banning zoos and public aquaria.
Colin Brown, the Chief Executive of The Deep in Hull told The Independent that it was actively involved in research - The Deep is connected to Hull University's leading marine biology programmes - and that official procedures were already in effect to highlight the problems raised in the CAPS study.
Said Brown: "There are no doubt good and bad aquariums, but the good that aquariums do in research, education and as ambassadors for the oceans is vital and should not be underestimated."
One possible reason for the number of deformed and elderly looking fish seen in the aquaria studied is because the fish in captivity live much longer. In the wild, few fish reach old age, because they're either eaten by predators or caught by fishermen.
All public aquaria in the UK are bound to follow the rigorous Zoo Licensing Act 1981 which sets clear guidelines on welfare, as well as promoting conservation.