Two non-profit organizations tested tropical fish from the pet stores and discovered that more than half of them had been exposed to cyanide. The explanation is that coral reef fish are collected directly from the wild, and one easy and illegal way to catch them is by using cyanide.
Cyanide Captures of Tropical Fish
Cyanide is used by fishermen to catch live fish from coral reefs. The chemical compound is highly toxic and affects the heart and the central nervous system. Even though the practice is controversial, the illegal use of cyanide is not uncommon. Experts think it may be driven by the increased demand on the tropical fish market.
The most important countries that are exporting tropical fish are Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines. All of them have a weak law enforcement that permits fishermen to continue using cyanide, even if this results in damages to the coral reef and fish end up poisoned.
The divers would spill 20-gallon tanks of bleach or cyanide into the waters and ultimately destroy the ecosystem. The most affected invertebrates are lobsters, shrimps, and Christmas tree worms.
Cyanide poisoning can be seen clearly in the market fish. Customers have always complained that their fish would die a couple of days after they brought them home from the store. The reason is that cyanide can kill fish in three weeks after the exposure.
Another report from the Center for Biological Diversity shows that the 6 million tropical fish that enter the US each year have been exposed to cyanide.
The Aquacultured and the Wild Fish
Moreover, 98% of the fish species living in salt water cannot be bred in captivity, as they have different food needs at various stages of development, and fish will not survive unless they are properly taken care of.
The blue tang is in the same situation – as it cannot be bred in captivity, the fish have to be imported from other countries where they are taken directly from its habitat. The cyanide practice is enforced once more.
Families are advised to buy aquacultured fish, which are easier to be taken care of, and their procurement does not involve captures from wild environments.
Kids, Don’t Kidnap Dory
Disney’s movie Finding Dory will enter theaters on Friday, and the marine experts are worried that many families would want to have in their homes Dory, the film star.
The previous Disney movie Finding Nemo boosted the demand in clownfish. While clownfish can be easily bred, this is not the case with the blue tang.
The marine biologists urge the public to avoid buying blue tangs, as all of them came directly from coral reefs, most probably underwent cyanide poisoning, and the ecosystems will be heavily impacted by the decrease in their population.
Disney has also put together a fact sheet on how a to choose the perfect pet fish, where it mentions that blue tangs, even though they are incredibly beautiful, they are not good pets. It is not mentioned there, but some blue tangs can even have venom glands and handling them is quite dangerous.
At this moment, the US authorities do not test the imported fish. However, an advocacy group filed a petition to stop the import of illegally captured tropical fish.
Image Source: Wikipedia