When we think of marine aquaculture and warehouse facilities we think about the typical havens like Southern Californiaâ€™s thriving wholesaler industry a stoneâ€™s throw from LAX. So itâ€™s amazing to see Drs. Foster & Smithâ€™s LiveAquaria, one of the top-notch facilities, in the heart of Americaâ€™s Midwest a five-hour drive north of Milwaukee, Wisconsinâ€™s largest city. This post was inspired by a recent article in NewsoftheNorth.net on LiveAquaria and itâ€™s director Kevin Kohen.
Let me frame the story for you. Northern Wisconsin was heavily based in mining and logging over the years, in fact my grandparents both Finnish and German immigrants started their new lives in America in Northern Wisconsin as farmers and loggers. Over the years, the Northwoods (or â€œUp Northâ€ as they say there) became the place to escape the hustle and bustle of life with vacation homes abundant on the vast and beautiful lakes of the area. In fact, during the heyday of organized crime in the 1920s and 30s, Northern Wisconsin was home to hideouts of famous gangsters like John Dillinger and Al Capone. In Manitowish Waters, less than an hour from LiveAquaria Rhinelander facility, is a resort named Little Bohemia where John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson narrowly escaped the FBI.
Back in 2002, Drs. Foster & Smith entered into the aquaculture and marine market acquiring Kohenâ€™s Ohio-based LiveAquaria. In 2005 they opened their well-planned and cutting edge Rhinelander facility. To see the proof, just check out their state-of-the-art filtration and holding systems we brought you from the Reef Builders Live tour of the facility last summer.
A few key points Kohen brings up in the article shows just how the hobby is not a major threat to the coral reef ecosystems around the world but has done tremendous amounts for the understanding and knowledge of the coral reefs. Building a self-sustaining industry is one of the keys to the long-term health of the hobby.
â€œWeâ€™re trying to offset some of this wild harvest with desirable species of coral, grown in large quantities, to be able to supply the United States with captive grown coral,â€ says Kohen. Although LiveAquaria hopes to promote the demand for cultivated coral, it is not seeking to completely replace the wild harvest coral industry. â€œWhen done right, selective harvesting of wild coral can benefit the reef,â€ he adds. â€œSimilar to the effect selective logging can have on the health of a forest. Itâ€™s a sustainable fishery when itâ€™s done properly. Itâ€™s very controlled, itâ€™s highly regulated, and it can even be beneficial to coral reefs. It also provides a trade for all these people that live in these remote regions have no other means to make an income, except for their resources.â€
Kohen also views hobbyists as a thriving component of the science and research of corals. As weâ€™ve seen over the years, the hobby and the goal of sustaining these fragile ecosystems in captivity has added greatly to the scientific body of knowledge. â€œThe aquarium industry has helped the scientific community with an incredible number of discoveries,â€ said Kohen. â€œIf you talk to some old scientist, they donâ€™t believe corals can be kept alive in captivity. Weâ€™ve broken so many barriers as aquarists to help scientists and reef ecologists, and to discover new species of fish. Itâ€™s a win-win for aquarium people and the scientific community. Check out the gallery below for some pictures from the Reef Builders tour of the facility last summer.