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A Wave of Change for Saltwater Fish Sold in Pet Stores

Photo: PETCO will start educating consumers about the importance of buying aquacultured fish. Courtesy: Defenders of Wildlife.
Photo: PETCO will start educating consumers about the importance of buying aquacultured fish. Courtesy: Defenders of Wildlife.
August 19, 2013

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The tides are turning for some types of saltwater fish popular with home aquarium keepers, thanks to a campaign by the largest pet retailer in the country. Petco is working with Defenders of Wildlife to reduce destructive fishing practices used to provide fish for their stores, asking its suppliers to use responsible marine-life collection practices and avoid populations that are overfished.

According to Dan Thornhill, conservation scientist with Defenders of Wildlife, many saltwater fish are currently collected using cyanide.

"And they will actually dispense this poison into the water and it stuns the fish, makes them easy to collect, but it also kills many fish and corals and other animals living on the reef, and it's one of the most destructive fishing practices in the world," he charged.

Thornhill said consumers should look for fish that are aquacultured, born and raised in tanks. Petco now posts signage in its stores identifying those fish.

Petco's vice president for companion animal merchandising, Rich Williams, said the retailer began efforts to increase its purchase of aquacultured fish two years ago and hopes it can lead the charge.

"We are the big name in the industry, and one of the main purposes of this goal is to encourage the rest of the industry to follow our lead, because if we don't stand up and take a stand, we feel no one else will either."

Petco's ultimate goal is to only sell aquacultured fish. In the meantime, Thornhill said, it's up to consumers to make the choice.

"We really recommend that they ask if it's aquacultured and choose aquacultured fish and corals whenever they can."

While saltwater marine life is often collected from the wild to be sold for aquariums, most freshwater aquarium fish are raised using aquaculture.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL