Where do public aquariums and home hobbyists get their fish?
Without any further information, much of the public would assume that they are aquacultured. However, this is not normally the case.
Many aquariums and hobbyists acquire their live animals from sustainable and managed suppliers, like Dynasty Marine. Public aquariums around the world display more than 2500 different species of sharks, rays, fish, and invertebrates. There are very few of these species, less than 10%, that can be readily acquired through aquaculture. Though aquaculture helps to supplement, the most viable option is to acquire these specimens through sustainable and managed wild sourcing. These animals act as ambassadors for their species to the public around the world, for educational purposes and help to promote conservation through awareness.
At Dynasty Marine, all our collections are done by highly trained individuals. Since we generally target a very specific species using proprietary techniques with our activities, we encounter little or no bycatch.
We have worked diligently with the State of Florida’s Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission since 1986 to develop the Florida Marine Life Fishery Rule. Throughout the course of our history, our business model has always been based on sustainable collections and long-term management of our resource. Through proactive suggestions, Dynasty Marine along with other stakeholders were successful in converting our fishery to a limited entry fishery in 1996. Meaning, no new collection permits have been issued from the state since that time and to obtain a collection permit, one would have to buy an existing license.
Our fishery is the most comprehensive fishery management program in the world with individual species size limits, bag limits, seasons, and in some instances, annual quotas. After each day of collection, the quantities of each species along with the collection area, collection method, and time the spent collecting is reported to the state. This way the state can monitor trends to track “unit per effort” on collections of each species to ensure that collections are truly sustainable year after year.
If you are a hobbyist or thinking about becoming a hobbyist and having your own fish in your care at your home, it is vitally important that you know that your fish are coming from sustainable and managed fisheries. Some of the best fisheries in the world are in Florida, Hawaii, and Australia. There are other fisheries throughout the Philippines, Indonesia, China, and others where the use of cyanide is destroying reefs through illegal collections.
Ask questions and demand to know that the fish you are buying or are seeing on display come from sustainable and managed fisheries. If each of us choose to become more informed and make educated decisions, we can help to eliminate these illegal fisheries and help protect coral reefs around the world from illegal and destructive fishing practices.
NOAA Restoration Blueprint
For nearly 2 decades Dynasty Marine Associates Inc. has proactively worked with Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to help make sure that sanctuary regulations are sound and true to the mission of resource protection while simultaneously allowing compatible uses. First starting with Dynasty Marine’s founder, Forrest Young, representing the commercial Marine Life Fishery and now with Dynasty Marine President and CEO, Ben Daughtry, as an eight 8+ year member of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council and recently elected Vice-Chair and belonging to and participating in core and working groups, including the Ecosystem restoration working group. Daughtry has volunteered 100’s of hours to help the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in the development of the “Restoration Blueprint”, the first complete review of management practices in the FKNMS in more than 20 years. The Blueprint will focus on best management practices that are working and improving those that are not as effective. A major component of which will be active restoration of the coral reef.
Reef Renewal International
The combined efforts of organizations like Reef Renewal, Dynasty Marine, Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, and R3EACH bring hope for the future of Florida’s coral reefs. These anchors will serve as the base for Coral TreesTM which enable conservationists to farm endangered coral species and “outplant” them onto the Florida Reef Tract. This method has been developed through years of research and has been proven to work with 11 different coral species including the critically endangered Elkhorn and Staghorn Corals. Located just offshore near Marathon, this new site will add to a growing network of coral nurseries along the Florida Keys dedicated to preserving this precious ecosystem. The continuing cooperation of these organizations alongside FWC could prove to be crucial in securing a healthy future for Florida’s coral reefs. In the words of Ken Nedimyer, “To rise to meet some of the biggest challenges our reefs have ever faced, we need to work together, collaborate and empower each other.”
Divers from Dynasty Marine, Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, R 3 Each, and Reef Renewal USA in partnership with the Florida Fish & Wildlife conservation commission (FWC) are working with Ken Nedimyser to install anchors for a brand-new coral nursery. Nedimyer, found of the Coral Restoration Foundation is now the director of Reef Renewal International working to save coral reefs here in the Florida Keys and around the world. “North America’s Great Barrier Reef” stretches from Miami down to the Dry Tortugas and is the third-largest barrier reef in the entire world. However, this incredible reef system is threatened by climate change, coral disease and heavy use by humans.
R3EACH – The Great Hammerhead Project
The Great Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna mokarran) is the largest of the hammerheads and is currently on the red list (critically endangered) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Overfishing, shark finning, and the loss of critical food resources are some suspected causes for their decline. Depriving future generations of such an iconic species would be tragic; studies like ours will be instrumental in gathering information critical to conserving this species.
R3EACH is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit with a mission that involves Research, Rescue, and Rehabilitation of the threatened marine species and Education and Awareness for Communities about the fragile marine Habitats that make up the Florida Keys. The Great Hammerhead Project fits perfectly into R³EACH’s mission.
Scientists from a number of colleges and universities work with R3EACH and Dynasty Marine to record data on hammerhead migration. These researchers utilize acoustic and satellite tags (SAT) to track the movements of individual sharks. UMass Amherst Ph.D. student Grace Casselberry is one of the scientists to work on this project most recently. Casselberry, R3EACH, and the Dynasty Marine team were able to tag 3 Great Hammerhead Sharks measuring in excess of 13’ with SAT tags. Her study focuses on predator-prey interactions between Great Hammerhead Sharks and Atlantic Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) and shark depredation in the recreational tarpon fishery. This research coincides with our mission and is also supported by the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. R³EACH, Dynasty Marine Associates, and Aquarium Encounters continue to donate their time, vessels, and equipment for the advancement of the Great Hammerhead Project.
If you would like to donate to the great hammerhead project, please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-great-hammerhead-project
Special thanks to Absolutely Fish Inc. who started with the original seed money to buy the first SAT tags for this project. For more info on Absolutely Fish Inc. please visit: https://absolutelyfish.com
Coral Reef Aquarium Fisheries Campaign
The Marine Aquarium Fish Trade Invests to Assess its own Sustainability
Faced with increasing scrutiny and restrictions to trade in marine aquarium fish around the globe, a leading marine aquarium fisher in Florida takes a proactive approach for its own fishery.
September 2020, Marathon, Florida
Over the course of the pandemic, marine aquarium keeping has become popular as people are at home, nesting, and investing in their pets. The hobby provides hands-on science experiences in biology, chemistry and environmental science; and with the inclusion of the family in the hobby, aquarium keeping fosters family bonding, communication, and an ethic of responsibility. But international trade of aquarium fish has been stymied this year as reduced flights have driven up shipping costs. U.S. marine aquarium fisheries trading domestically are thus poised to gain increased market share, supporting the livelihoods of fishermen, exporters, wholesalers, retailers, and others in the value chain. But Hawaii’s marine aquarium fishery, well-managed in relation to those at other global locales, has been recently banned. This drove 226 commercial aquarium fishers to provide for their livelihoods through other means, and eliminated the annual boost of $2 million from the fishery to the State’s economy, according to an environmental impact statement prepared by the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council in 2019.
An opportunity for Florida. These developments offer a market growth opportunity for Florida marine aquarium fishers, and raise the profile of this fishery in the eyes of the marine aquarium trade and environmental advocates alike. But can the policy framework of the Florida marine aquarium fishery sustain coral reef fish populations and fishers’ livelihoods over the long term, and will it continue to do so with rising demand?
Dynasty Marine Associates, a leading marine aquarium fisher in Marathon, FL, has invested in the research needed to answer this question. Ben Daughtry, President of Dynasty Marine, said: “In recent years, deliberations over the sustainability of coral reef aquarium fisheries in some locales have been one-sided. Our approach in Florida is to engage stakeholders from the Florida fishery to invest in an up-close look at the sustainability of our own businesses. We’ve taken the first step, and invite others to join in the effort.”
Figure 1: Dynasty’s Director Emeritus Forrest Young, VP of Sales Frank Young, and President Ben Daughtry (L to R) make a decompression stop on their way up from a deep-water collecting dive. Fish are packed in individual containers inside Daughtry’s dive bag.
Enter the Coral Reef Aquarium Fisheries Campaign, founded by Dr. Paul Anderson, a marine scientist who has dedicated his career to understanding and improving the sustainability of the marine aquarium. Anderson has partnered with Dynasty and with Dr. Bob Pomeroy, a fisheries economist, and Dr. Tracey Dalton, Chair of the University of Rhode Island’s Department of Marine Affairs, to answer this question. With the help of a URI graduate student, their goal is to describe the policy framework for marine aquarium fish as an educational tool for regulators and stakeholders in the Florida marine ornamental fishery and as a model for other locales. They will assess the effects of current policies on 1) the sustainability of selected indigenous coral reef fish species, and 2) stakeholders and their businesses. Comparisons will be drawn among policy landscapes for other selected locales. The forthcoming report may offer policy recommendations that have demonstrated successes in sustainability in other locales.
Anderson emphasizes the need for stakeholders from all sides of the issue to weigh in: “We seek to pursue this study objectively and comprehensively, with the support and input of the voices of those who are passionate about coral reef conservation and those who want to see the aquarium trade continue to educate families and children for decades to come. These people are often, though not always, one and the same.”
Figure 2: Dynasty’s VP of Dive Operations Bucky Wile packs freshly collected ornamental fish in ventilated containers. Then, the fish will be transferred to large aerated wells for the trip back to shore. These handling practices reduce fish aggression and optimize welfare during transport.
To lend your support for the project, please get in touch with Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or donate here.
The Coral Reef Aquarium Fisheries Campaign is a multi-stakeholder initiative to empower sustainable coral reef aquarium fisheries that support biodiversity conservation, healthy coral reefs, and livelihoods and food security for those who depend on them across the global value chain.
Name of Press Contact: Paul Anderson
Phone: (202) 455-5658