AUSTIN, Texas Marine biologists at The University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute are developing means to efficiently breed saltwater aquarium fish, seahorses, plankton and invertebrates in captivity in order to preserve the biologically rich ecosystems of the world's coral reefs.
These scientists believe their efforts, and those of colleagues around the world, could help shift much of the $1 billion marine ornamental industry toward entrepreneurs who are working sustainably to raise fish for the aquarium trade.
"It's the kind of thing that could transform the industry in the way that the idea of 'organic' has changed the way people grow and buy fruits and vegetables," says Joan Holt, professor and associate chair of marine science at The University of Texas at Austin. "We want enthusiasts to be able to stock their saltwater tanks with sustainably-raised, coral-safe species."
Holt is a co-author of a recent article, "Advances in Breeding and Rearing Marine Ornamentals," published in the Journal of the World Aquaculture Society in April.
The paper is a complement to Holt's broad-ranging work over the past 10 years to promote captive breeding of ornamentals. She's been a pioneer in developing food sources and tank designs that enable fragile larvae to survive to adulthood.
Holt has also been a vocal critic of the extraordinarily wasteful methods currently used to bring sea creatures from the oceans to the tanks.
"One popular method is to use a cyanide solution," says Holt. "It's squirted into the holes and crevices of the reef and it anesthetizes the fish. They float to the surface. Then the collectors can just scoop them up, and the ones that wake up are shipped out."
This method, says Holt, has a number of unfortunate effects. It bleaches the coral. It kills or harms other species that make the coral their home, particularly those that can't swim away from the cyanide. It can
|Contact: Daniel Oppenheimer|
University of Texas at Austin