What’s wrong with the oceanariums? Pitfalls of water zoos

    04 Aug 2021

    Let’s check Rubryka’s analysis of the heated discussions about the appropriateness of such kinds of entertainment as oceanariums.

    At first glance, aquariums with marine life do not look cruel, but even beautiful, romantic, sometimes fabulous. We are attracted by the world of ocean depths and the opportunity to “look into the gap” and find out who they are – the inhabitants of the seas. Such entertainment seems so innocent and tempting. The backdrop of this business and other similar entertainment: circuses, zoos, dolphinariums – is not as beautiful and beautiful as advertising posters of aquariums.

    So what’s wrong with them?

    Let’s start with the origin of animals. 98% of marine species do not breed in captivity. This means that the vast majority of fish found in saltwater aquariums have been caught in the wild. Hawaii, Fiji, Indonesia, Kenya, Philippines… 90% of fish in American saltwater aquariums are caught in open waters from coral reefs. There are no such statistics in Eastern Europe for obvious reasons.

    How are they caught, and what is so terrible here?

    They’re usually caught using cyanide. It’s “sprayed” on fish to stun them in this way and catch them. Of course, cyanide poisons not only the victims of lovers of saltwater aquariums and easy (and, incidentally, illegal) profit but also the surrounding corals and all living nearby. Catching one live fish kills a little less than a square meter of coral. This is terrible news, given how essential corals are to the ocean ecosystem and the ocean ecosystem to life in general. And the fish have non-transfusions. They suffocate, lose balance, the respiratory system collapses.

    Sometimes the dose of cyanide is too high, and they die immediately. Sometimes they die during transportation. Every intermediary in the chain from, for example, Fiji to Lviv (Ukraine) is interested in passing the goods on as soon as possible because this fish is needed only alive, and it can die at any time during transportation.

    Fans of fish can hardly imagine the past of their pets. Playing on the sympathy of the general public, sellers of exotic fish and owners of aquariums earn a lot of money, so they try to protect their customers from the sad and uncomfortable truth.

    In their video, National Geographic shows strictly how live fish are transported. Packed in tiny plastic bags that fold into a foam box, the fish is transported as a commodity. The authors of the material admit that they have not paid enough attention to the trade-in live fish. As well as many other organizations and governments. Because of this, we know little about trade volumes and losses to the environment because even this data is enough to sound the alarm.

    Not only environmentalists and animal rights activists see the danger to corals in catching tropical fish. One of the criminal cases was opened when the fisherman came to the police and said he wanted to make a statement. This fisherman – an older man dried by the winds, came across a dead coral reef. Once full of life, it’s now similar to the surface of the moon. Suddenly the man realized that he was also involved in the reef’s death, like all other poachers. The whole history of further investigation is a tangle of corruption, poaching, greed, smuggling. The main goal, of course, is profit. Both live corals and marine animals, from miniature fish to sharks and reptiles, were the commodity. As a result, many received considerable prison terms.

    Fish that are commercially bred in captivity are no better off. In Fort Lauderdale, animal rights activists hold weekly protests at the site of the Sequest, a network of interactive aquariums usually located in cities, trying to build a new aquarium in the mall. They appeal to local authorities to prevent construction.

    “They build first and then ask for permits,” said Ana Campos, a local investigator and animal rights activist. “Their aquariums are dirty and overcrowded. In Portland, a worker keeps a ‘death log’ of hundreds of dead animals.” Despite this fame, more and more salt aquariums were opened. The case is still under investigation, and detectives and animal rights activists are finding more and more leverage to influence Sequest, which can not but please biologists. “Damn, it’s so nice to see some of these guys in trouble,” said Turner Jeff of the Florida Marine Life Association.

    Owners of commercial aquariums and aquariums oppose animal rights activists by talking about the educational role of aquariums. But Fabien Cousteau, a famous oceanographer, and grandson of the legendary Jacques Yves Cousteau, explains that the ethics of aquariums is a problematic issue. Because, theoretically, an ethical aquarium should reproduce the entire ecosystem, which is expensive and complicated. And, of course, it is impossible to do in a shopping center or a former cinema in the city center. “The perfect aquarium with the perfect ecosystem is our planet Earth, which would be better called the planet Ocean,” jokes Cousteau.

    Is there an alternative?

    Yes, exactly. Jacques Yves Cousteau ran the Parc Océanique Cousteau in Paris, a kind of amusement park where you can get to know the ocean and where there were no fish. A 3D aquarium where you can see whales and dolphins operated in New York. Without every animal in captivity, of course. This non-cruel oceanarium impressed Saudi Prince Khaled bin Alwalid so much that he decided to invest in constructing new aquariums of this type. After all, there is snorkeling and diving, and for this entertainment, it is not necessary to go to tropical countries. Observing live Black Sea fauna will be more instructive and exciting than visiting a fish show, not in your environment, not even on your continent.

    Of course, the choice is always up to the customer. Ocean dwellers hope he will be responsible.

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