• Educating others is key to the future of our hobby

    Scott Fellman writes: I was sort of pondering the state of the hobby in a recent philosophical moment, and I realized that we are at a sort of "crossroads" in the hobby and industry, with very real pressures on us from outside forces who know little of what we actually do.

    As a group, marine aquarium hobbyists have a good sense of the responsibilities that come with acquiring and caring for aquatic animals, don't we?

    We understand the impact of irresponsible collection, improper handling, and incompetent husbandry on the animals we love. We've worked very hard to elevate the state of the art, promote responsible stewardship of precious natural resources, and perpetuate the species that are under our care. Most importantly, we've worked hard to communicate responsible practices to others, both within - and outside of - our small, but growing community.

    Yet we still seem to be the easy target for critics who seek to assign blame for the degradation of natural reefs, don't we? We're the "low-hanging fruit," so to speak. Why is that? Probably because we don't seem to speak to the general public with a unified voice. Organizations like "For the Fishes" and people like "Snorkel Bob" tend to make interesting sound bites for the masses obsessed with assigning blame for a multitude of ills to someone- anyone.

    We in the reef community take great pride in the efforts that have been made to understand, care for, and propagate corals, invertebrates, and fishes, so that the worldís reefs will be around for centuries to come. We seem to gently (and maybe not so gently, sometimes!) "correct" our fellow hobbyists when they lapse into poor judgement ("You put HOW MANY tangs into that 75-gallon aquarium?"), admit our wrongdoings, and take responsibility for our mistakes. As a community, we occasionally have to rally together to address the unfair accusations from our hobbyís detractors (Ya hear that "Snorkel Bob"?) - and, more often than not - we open our minds to the very real problems (coral bleaching, negative impact from sewage runoff, unsustainable collection practices, etc.) that impact our beloved natural reefs and the animals that we cherish. However, I believe that we do need to do a better job of educating the general public about our hobby, our passions, and the state of the world's reefs.

    We need to "propagate, replicate, and appreciate" (to borrow someone's avatar...) the corals that form the crux of our hobby/obsession.

    As a group, we've done a pretty good job, havenít we? Consider that any modern "frag swap" consists of large numbers of hobbyists trading, selling, and sometimes giving away (yup!) captive-propagated corals and animals. Our collective hard work has resulted in many new fishes being bred successfully, and a wide variety of propagated corals appearing on the market that have never even been on a natural reef. Dedication, care, discipline, and passion are paying huge dividends for the hobby, and for the priceless natural treasures that we so admire.

    The responsibility of being a reefer is more than just occasionally speaking out, or reacting to an external threat. Itís having the intellectual honesty to question ourselves and members of our community- to be accountable for our actions or inactions. While we canít take ourselves too seriously, we cannot allow our community/hobby/industry to be portrayed to the general public in an irresponsible manner. We need to weed out the bad actors by refusing to support those who engage in irresponsible practices. It is our responsibility to police our ranks, lest government agencies do it for us, perhaps closing down the importation or trade of marine animals altogether. We need to question anyone who detracts from the real progress that we have made.

    And we need to question ourselves as individuals - and take personal responsibility for what we do-or don't do-to communicate with non-reefers about our hobby.

    I admit that I've made many poor decisions over my hobby "career," which have resulted in loss of life to precious animals. We all have. Iím sure most of you do what I have done: Own up to them, learn from them, and share the lessons learned, so that others will not duplicate these costly mistakes.

    It is our shared responsibility. The responsibility of being a reefer. Kind of goes with the territory here.

    We need to educate; to make sure that we share what we know with open hearts and patience. When we have the opportunity to show the general public what we're all about, we cannot waste that opportunity. We need to hold ourselves accountable to nature and the life forms that we work so hard to protect. To educate those who don't really understand about our dedication and caring to the animals in our care, and on the world's reefs. We must continue to expand our knowledge and skills, and teach them to neophyte reefers, so that future generations will continue to enjoy our hobby-and the natural reefs.

    This is a remarkable time in our hobby, and in the fight to preserve the world's precious reefs. We have a unique opportunity to share with the world the true value of what we do, each and every day as reefers. We can be a visible, approachable, and helpful resource for all who treasure aquatic life.

    Let's continue the legacy of caring and teaching, for the good of all who love nature. Take the time to explain to non-reefers just what we do every day, and how we treasure the aquatic environment as much- if not more- than any other group on the planet.

    The future of the hobby is in our hands. Please, letís not let it slip through them because we donít recognize and correct our own mistakes, and share with others our true love for this magnificent hobby.

    Until next time,

    Stay Wet.

    Scott Fellman
    Unique Corals
    Originally posted here: http://www.reef2reef.com/forums/uniq...-hobbyist.html

    Editor's Note:
    As I read Scott's words above, I wondered what more we can do as hobbyists as well as those that work the business side of this industry. What we need are facts, real numbers proving that we are working hard and sharing what we've cared for, which in turn has resulted in taking less from our oceans' reefs because of the availability of growing and trading livestock. We should build a list of corals that we keep successfully. When is the last time you heard someone grumbling they don't have a certain coral from the ocean? By comparison, no doubt you have heard people make special requests for corals with nicknames like "Red People Eaters" or "Kryptonite Candy Cane" corals. Why, because those are available within the reefing community and are sought after. We have access to how many tank-raised coral species? Dare I say 1000? With the variations in color, growth patterns and naming... this seems quite likely. I did a quick count of the different pieces of livestock in my 10g frag tank last month and counted 40 different types!

    Off the top of my head, here are a few coral companies that have grown corals for us to enjoy. Walt Smith Industries, Pacific East Aquaculture, ORA, and Live Aquaria's Divers Den to name a few. Here in my immediate area, North Texas Aquaculture grows out troughs of corals to supply area fish stores. I know several hobbyists that grew corals in such abundance that they turned it into a thriving business. These are but a few examples of those forward thinkers that decided the best way to protect what we have was to make sure we have plenty for all.

    Clams are being grown via mari-cultured facilities in Florida as well as Tahiti. Invertebrates are being tank-raised, including ornamental shrimp and anemones. That also includes jellyfish, cuttlefish, seahorses and sea hares. What about fish? I contacted Matt Pedersen to find out how many species of saltwater fish are being raised currently, and he pointed me to this article in Coral Magazine (2013) with an impressive list: http://www.reef2rainforest.com/2013/...list-for-2013/ Over 230 species of saltwater fish as of January this year, and an updated list will come out in early 2014, so stay tuned for the next tally.

    Over the decades, we hobbyists have learned much about the care required to keep our livestock healthy, thriving, and growing. We gather often to share our experiences. We work hard to maintain the animals we've chosen to keep and excel at making them available to others. What we need now is a centralized compendium to prove without a doubt that what we are doing benefits the future, and strike the negative press by others that rely on unproven facts and assumptions. I'd be happy to help make this happen, and welcome your input, insight and any valid content.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. OneReef's Avatar
      OneReef -
      Interesting, I just received two polyps of that first acan shown in the article. Hope it grows out nicely.