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Contains articles regarding fish and aquariums in the news.

NOAA lists 20 species of corals under the Endangered Species Act

NOAA lists 20 species of corals under the Endangered Species Act

remote coral reefIf you have a marine aquarium, it is time that you paid attention to some of the legal battles that have been going on around you, and get involved to try and preserve the future of your hobby.  In recent years, environmental groups have made a concerted effort to push for regulations that could have profound effects on the aquarium hobby, through lobbying efforts directed at invasive species legislation, bans on collection for certain species, and as in this case, a petition to list species under the Endangered Species Act.  While these actions may be well intended, and not necessarily directed at the the aquarium hobby, they have the potential to affect the aquarium hobby in a profound way.  This most resent legislation to include species of coral under the Endangered Species Act, some of which are common to the aquarium trade, is a serious threat to the future of the hobby.

In a Final Ruling on August 27, 2014, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) listed 20 new coral species and Threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  These new listings brings the total number of coral species listed as Threatened to 22, including the Caribbean Elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) Corals.  Here is the official Fact Sheet released by NOAA, including a complete listing of the 22 corals listed.

The 1973 Endangered Species Act defines two categories of plants or animals that fall under the ESA, Endangered and Threatened.  Endangered Species are “any species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range”; Threatened Species are “any species that is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”  Endangered species are provided with the full protection of the ESA, while the Threatened Species receive many, but not all, of the protections of the ESA.

How did we get here?

Green Chromis on ReefIt was a long and winding road to get to the final ruling.  In October 2009 The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned NOAA to list 83 species as endangered under the ESA.  After an initial 90 day finding period, the agency announced in February 2010, that 82 of the proposed species warranted investigation, and launched an official status review process.  NOAA then embarked on an in-depth science-based study, gathering and examining any and all relevant scientific, commercial and public data that was currently available. This was one of the broadest and most complex listing reviews ever undertaken by NOAA.

In December 2012, after and in depth study by a biological review team, NOAA published a proposed rule to list 66 of the coral species studied for listing under the Endangered Species Act.  The Proposed Rule looked to list 57 species as endangered status, and 9 species to be listed as threatened, this rule included a proposed change of status from threatened to endangered for Caribbean Elkhorn and Staghorn corals.

August 2014, with significant changes from original proposed rule, NOAA announces that it has listed 20 new corals as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act, as well as a ruling that the Caribbean Elkhorn and Staghorn Corals would remain as Threatened Status.  The Changes were the result of new scientific papers on climate change and coral habitat, distribution and abundance which were recently published.  An unprecedented level of public comments was also included in the final ruling.

This is a brief summary of the ruling, the complete 1,100 page document can be found HERE

 

This issue struck a nerve.

Given the precedent setting nature, and the sheer magnitude of the petitions scale, input was sought from many sources.  Non-Governmental, Public, Academic and others experts were included in the study.  This was one of the largest and most in-depth listing revues ever done.

During the public engagement and comment periods NOAA received more 75,000 emails, letters and comments, all in an effort to make sure that the decision was based upon the best available information.

 

maldives_water_618x216

 

What Does This Mean For The Aquarium Hobby?

In the short term, there will not be any real impact felt.  With the corals being listed as threatened vs endangered, there are no immediate or automatic restrictions on taking wild coral for the aquarium hobby.

The Future is quite cloudy however. Once listed, and under government control, the level of protection or additional restrictions for a listed species is subject to review.  Any species listed as threatened is only one step removed from endangered status. Endangered status would mean an immediate bad on collection, importation, interstate travel and limit captive breeding to a permit only activity.  It would effectively remove the species from the hobby. Included in the press release for the final ruling were these two points.

“In the future, we may also identify specific regulations for the conservation of these threatened species, because ESA prohibitions against “take” are not automatically applied as they are for species listed as endangered.”

”We will continue to work with communities to help them understand how the agency’s decision may or may not affect them. The tools available under the Endangered Species Act are sufficiently flexible so that they can be used in partnership with coastal jurisdictions, in a manner that will allow activity to move forward in a way that does not jeopardize listed coral.”

The Caribbean Elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) corals are a perfect example, while they are only listed as threatened under the ESA, there has been a complete ban on collection for public use.  Both listed as threatened under the ESA in 2006, the National Marine Fisheries added a ruling in 2008 which gave these species almost full protection of the ESA, and a complete ban.  Legislation was also passed to create protected habitats which further limits activities that could impact these coral, including fishing and fish collecting.

 

What Can You Do?

The forces at play here are much bigger than the aquarium hobby, while illegal, unsustainable and damaging collection practices play a role in the decrease of coral reefs worldwide, it is only a small part.  In the final ruling for the 20 new species listed under the ESA,  NOAA cited impacts related to climate change (rising ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, and disease), ecological effects of fishing, and poor land-use practices (runoff and pollution) as the most serious threats to coral reefs.

As you can see in what information was used in making this final ruling, public involvement counts, public input helps make sure that these are informed decisions.  Support advocates of the aquarium industry that promote and support responsible and sustainable collection practices.  Support aquacultured and maricultured species of aquarium fish and corals, these are critical to conservation efforts. Get involved in the process, or the marine aquarium hobby is going to disappear as we know it.

Visit the National Marine Fisheries website often to know what is in the news, This is the branch of NOAA responsible for the stewardship of our oceans, make sure that your voice is heard during public comment periods of investigations.  You can see all of the species under investigation for ESA consideration:

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/esa/candidate.htm

Of particular interest to marine aquarium hobbyists, should be the status review of the Percula Clownfish and other Pomacentrid fishes. ESA Status change to these fishes could have profound effects on the aquarium hobby.  Educate yourself about the issues, and get involved in the process.  Public comments are open now, put in your two cents!

The loudest lobbying voice for the aquarium hobby is PIJAC (Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council), visit their website www.pijac.org for news and information about issues affecting the hobby, as well as information about making donations to the Marine Ornamental Defense Fund.

Until Next Blog,

Dave

Lionfish Banned in Florida

lionfish-invasionFlorida has stepped up its game in recent months, in an effort to combat their serious problem with invasive lionfish.  Some of which has a direct impact on the aquarium hobby in the state of Florida.  In what seems like a very short amount of time, the problem has gone from rumors and possible sightings, to a full out invasion.  Lionfish populations have exploded and now are affecting the entire state of Florida, and neighboring areas of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and The U.S. East Coast.

This story has been one of particular interest for us here at That Fish Blog, and we have covered the topic in detail in past entries from 20072008 ,2010  again in 2013

 

Lionfish_Website_map_collage

It has only taken about 30 years for these predators to establish themselves, and spread like wildfire.

In a unanimous vote by the commissioners of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the State has adopted several measures to help fight against the invasive fish.

  1. Complete import ban of all Pterios genus Lionfish into the state of Florida.  No more mail order lionfish, and no more imported lionfish in Florida pet stores.
  2. Divers are authorized to use rebreathers, in the capture and harvest of Lionfish.  This enables divers to dive longer, deeper and quieter while hunting lionfish.  Use of rebreathers is otherwise prohibited for spear fishing in Florida.
  3. Authorizes the Executive Director to issue permits for spear fishing tournament in waters that would otherwise be off limits to spear fishing.

0630_Lionfish1These new regulations will go into Effect on Aug 1, 2014.  Already in place in the state of Florida are regulations that promote and encourage fisherman to hunt and remove Lionfish, which is the only viable option for hoping to control their growth.  There are no minimum size limits, closed seasons or bag limits for recreational or commercial harvest, and a recreational fishing license is not required to harvest lionfish when using dip nets, pole spears, Hawaiian slings or any spearing device designed and marketed exclusively for lionfish.

Reporting Lionfish sightings is now easier than ever, there is an app for that!  Anglers can report lionfish sightings by downloading the new Report Florida Lionfish app on a smart device or by visiting MyFWC.com/Fishing and clicking on “Recreational Regulations” (under “Saltwater”) and then “Lionfish.”

Try a new adventure, and get involved with efforts to remove lionfish.  Fishing Tournaments, charter fishing, or just recreational fishing is both fun and can serve a good purpose as well.

Thanks for reading,

Dave

Top Aquarium & Fish Articles This Month – May 2014

It’s FINALLY starting to warm up around here as May has arrived, but the great content hasn’t slowed down one bit. Below, are some of the top blogs, aquarium content, and general cool fish stuff we’ve seen over the last month. Please let us know what you think – or shoot us an email at marinebioblog@thatpetplace.com for items you’d like to see next month!

1. Diving in Cuba and Enjoying a Lionfish Barbeque – Reefbuilders.com

http://reefbuilders.com/2014/05/13/diving-in-cuba-and-enjoying-a-lionfish-barbecue-with-collectors-of-gramma-dejongi//

There were two really cool things about this article. One, that the author got to actually dive in Cuba – we Americans are not allowed to partake in this, and 2. that it highlights the lionfish expansion epidemic we’ve been talking about for years. The author actually partakes in some tasty Lionfish dinner. The article also references an amazing animated image (shown below) showing the expansion of the Lionfish throughout the Atlantic and Caribbean – courtesy of Reef.org
Lionfish Expansion from Reefs.org

2. Aquarium 101 – Starting a Siphon – That Fish Blog

http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatfishblog/2014/05/06/aquarium-101-starting-siphon/

Ahh the siphon! We speak to new aquarists ALL THE TIME here – and we’re always recommending water changes as basic aquarium maintenance 101. We are also BIG fans of fish acclimation. So logically, why wouldn’t we write a guide on how to actually get a siphon started? Our fish experts put their heads together for this one, including some cool animated .gifs.

3. Choosing an Aquarium Light Guides – That Fish Place

http://www.thatpetplace.com/aquarium-lighting-charts

Aquarium Lighting Charts at That Fish Place - That Pet Place

New Lighting Charts

Each day, we get lots of questions from aquarists of all types and skill levels. These lighting charts are designed to show aquarists precisely which options they have for any freshwater fish tank, freshwater planted tank, reef aquarium, or saltwater fish only. You can match your tank’s dimensions to light fixtures your tank could support; while achieving the output you require. Simple, cut and dry charts to choose a light fixture for your tank.

4. Blennies That Eat Algae – Fish Channel

http://www.fishchannel.com/saltwater-fish/blennies-that-eat-algae.aspx

I love this topic, and frankly, I wish we would’ve written this article. EVERY aquarist is constantly on the lookout for organic ways to take out the ever-present algae buildup. This short write-up gives you a sense of which Blennies are algae gobblers. As if you needed another excuse to add an adorable Blenny..

Let us know what you think – and please send us any articles you think should be included in the monthly run-down.

Guppy Love: Hanging with Unattractive Buddies Makes You Look Better!

Guppy varieties

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Melanochromis

A fascinating study at the University of Western Australia has shown that male Guppies (Poecilia reticulata) specifically choose drab-colored “friends” in order to improve their own attractiveness to females. What’s more, the behavior is not instinctive, but rather seems to be learned through experience (via “broken hearts”, I wonder!). This is the first time that any animal has been shown to choose a social group based upon the physical attractiveness of its members.

For Guppies, Appearance is Everything
Female Guppies choose mates based on the brightness of their coloration, with orange being most favored. Researchers presented male Guppies with the choice of 2 groups with which to associate. One group was comprised of a female and numerous drab-colored males, the other a female and attractive males (orange spots covering more than 20% of their bodies).

The test males chose to associate with the drab-colored group. Drab test males were more likely to pay attention to the attractiveness of their male associates. Very attractive male Guppies, it seems, need not worry about such details, as they were “confident” of their abilities to attract a mate regardless of the competition!

Yes, Fish can Learn!
The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (V. 280, N. 1756), also confirmed what many aquarists have long suspected – fish can learn and profit from past experiences. Male Guppies raised in isolation from other males exhibited no preferences when given the choice of drab or colorful male associates. Researchers theorize that male Guppies learn to associate with drab companions based on their past mating successes…or failures, as the case may be! Please see the articles linked under “Further Reading” for more on fish intelligence.

Wild guppies

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Per Harald Olsen

Try This at Home
I’ve been able to observe the importance of male coloration in my own aquariums. I have long-established schools of “feeder” (wild type) Guppies in several tanks. Every so often I’ll add a large “fancy” male. Over the next several weeks, that male’s coloration, color patterns and/or fin structure will become very noticeable in the population, despite the fact that there may be 20-40 other males present. Please post your own observations below, thanks.

American Bullfrog

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Ram-Man

Deceitful Bullfrogs
American Bullfrogs exhibit a unique variation of this breeding strategy. Females select mates based upon the sound of the males’ calls, opting to hone in on those made by the largest males. Small males, who seem to know that they cannot attract a mate with their feeble songs, also listen for large males. Known as “satellite males”, the little fellows position themselves at the edge of a dominant male’s territory…far enough from him so as not to be attacked.

From this location they attempt to latch onto females that are swimming in to consort with the larger male. If successful, the satellite male steers his prize away from the larger male’s territory, in hopes of fertilizing the eggs that she is carrying. Although such trickery seems a bit under-handed, it is a good example of the “brains over brawn” concept!

Further Reading
Fish Intelligence: Experiments You can do at Home

Fish Personalities: an Interesting Study

Top Aquarium & Fish Articles This Month – April 2014

It’s been a great month for Aquarium and Fish Content Across the Internet. Check out some of our favorites below and please feel free to post some of your favorites!

1. 6 Ways to Help Prevent Aquarium Leaks – Saltwatersmarts.com

http://www.saltwatersmarts.com/6-steps-prevent-aquarium-leaks-1316/

We really liked this article – quick and to the point and it addresses one of the most fundamental things you have to think about BEFORE getting your tank up and running. There’s nothing scarier than a leaky aquarium: follow SaltwaterSmarts’ advice and keep that floor dry! On a related note – we have an article on moving your aquarium which discusses some similar items.

2. Aquarium Myths and Misconceptions – That Fish Blog

http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatfishblog/2014/04/02/aquarium-myths-misconceptions/

Our Aquatics and Fish Master Dave Acland is fed up with bad fish advice. From the classic ‘Inch per gallon’ rule to the idea that smaller fish tanks are better for new aquarists – Dave’s here to dispel these classic myths and misconceptions. Take a read.

3. Gravel & Substrate vs. Bare-Bottomed Tanks – That Fish Blog

http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatfishblog/2014/04/07/gravel-substrate-versus-bare-bottom-tanks/

Lots of great reasons to go with gravel or bare-bottomed tanks – and Marine Biologist Eileen Daub goes through each one of them. Be sure to have a read before your set up your next tank!

4. Top Filters for Goldfish Tanks – That Fish Blog

http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatfishblog/2014/03/25/best-aquarium-filters-for-goldfish/

So, Zoologist Frank Indiviglio has kept lots of Goldfish in his day – OK..maybe thousands. This article runs down what he considers to be the best choices for goldfish tank filtration. Hint – Frank’s a little old school and he LOVES his undergravel filter for these guys. Find out why.

5. NextReef Showcases Use of 3D Printing in the Industry – ReefBuilders.com

http://reefbuilders.com/2014/04/02/nextreef-printing-sumps-showcasing-3d-printer-industry/

Anyone with a reef tank LOVES them some new technology. Reefbuilders discusses how NextReef is looking into using 3D Printers for making customizable sumps and other aquarium pieces and parts. Talk about customizing your system!

Let us know what you think – and please send us any articles you think should be included in the monthly run-down.