They say that great minds think alike, and with that thought, Rich wrote a piece this morning which is a perfect segway into this discussion that Scott had in mind. Both of these great reef guys had the same independent idea and we hope that the aquarium hobby will continue to keep these very important ideas in the spotlight.
After the recent stir over the reality series “Tanked”, and the massive pounding that the show is receiving from many in the aquatic hobby community and industry, I have pondered why it is that we’re so….ticked off! Do we have some sort of self-righteousness…are we jealous of the success of others? Or, could it be that we simply understand the responsibility of being a reefer?
I’d like to think it’s the latter. As a group, marine aquarium hobbyists have a good sense of the responsibilities that come with acquiring and caring for aquatic animals. We understand the impact of irresponsible collection, improper handling, and incompetent husbandry. 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.
We take great pride in the efforts that have been made to understand, care for, and propagate corals, invertebrates, and fishes, so that the world’s reefs will be around for centuries to come. We 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 hobby’s 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.
We’ve done a pretty good job, haven’t 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 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 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. It’s having the intellectual honesty to question ourselves and members of our community- to be accountable for our actions or inactions. While we can’t take ourselves too seriously, we cannot allow our community to be portrayed to the general public in an irresponsible manner. 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. Sadly, I’ve made many poor decisions over my hobby “career”, which have resulted in loss of life to precious animals. We all have. I’m 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.
We need to educate, propagate, and innovate. We need 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. So, lest you feel I’m singling out a certain television show for criticism, and taking it “too seriously”, I assure you that I’m not. I’m doing what we all need to do: Asking us to hold ourselves accountable to nature and the life forms that we work so hard to protect. To educate those who don’t understand about our dedication and caring. To expand our knowledge and skills so that future generations will enjoy our hobby-and the natural reefs.
If we give the public the impression that we are irresponsible, whether it’s via writing, internet, television, or even our own actions-then we ARE being irresponsible. Of course, a TV show alone will not destroy the hobby. However, the dissemination of inaccurate or incomplete information just might. Maybe we typically don’t create “instant aquariums” or recommend tickling inflated puffer fish out of water, or make absurd stocking decisions, but if they see us do it on TV, the general public doesn’t know that. Neither do the “activists” out there who would love to see the “cruel” aquarium hobby banished forever.
Whether it’s because of bad editing, miscues, or genuine bad practice, inaccurate portrayals of the hobby and hobby/industry practices in the media undermine the good work done daily at sites like Bob Fenner’s wetwebmedia.com, where tireless volunteers mentor fellow hobbyists, as well as countless other websites, forums, and blog sites worldwide. “It’s just entertainment.” is not an excuse for glossing over the realities-the responsibilities– that come with disseminating this information, like it or not . And it’s not just reefers…it’s the responsibility of all who are in the aquatic hobby community.
The future of the hobby is in our hands. Please, let’s not let it slip through them because we don’t recognize and correct our own mistakes.
Until next time,