April 22, 2010

Aquarists association to hold first meeting

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill -- Fishery experts at Southern Illinois University Carbondale are forming an outreach group aimed at assisting and encouraging fish businesses and hobbyists.

The Southern Illinois Aquarists Association will hold its first meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 28, in the John C. Guyon Auditorium at Morris Library. The event, which is free and open to the public, will feature guest speaker Kevin Kohen, director of marine aquaculture at liveaquaria.com.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the first meeting of the Southern Illinois Aquarists Association. For more information, contact James Garvey at 618/536-7761.

James Garvey, director of the Fisheries & Illinois Aquaculture Center at SIUC, said the organization’s initial focus would involve the ornamental fish industry, which procures, breeds, distributes and sells fish commonly found in aquariums.

“A typical ornamental fish is a gold fish,” Garvey said. “We’re talking about fish that are a little bit harder to take care of or breed in captivity, but that have a distinctive price advantage to produce.”

An example of such a fish -- a discus fish -- inhabits an aquarium in Garvey’s office. The fish, a flat, circular fish with colorful markings, was produced at Rocky Mountain Discus in southern Indiana. Garvey said such fish sell for $40 to $70 each, depending on their breed.

Garvey said businesses that supply ornamental fish hold strong economic promise, if owners are well trained and responsible.

“We want to promote the industry but at the same time educate consumers about the way in which fish like these are procured,” Garvey said. “We want to promote wise conservation and make it possible for hobbyists to consider that when the make their purchases.”

In too many cases currently, some fish suppliers capture ornamental fish in the wild, depleting populations. The SIAA will work with suppliers to promote responsible procurement and breeding methods, while helping hobbyists understand the entire system and make informed choices. They also want to educate hobbyists about the consequences of re-releasing ornamental varieties in local waterways, where their presence could damage the ecosystem.

“Right now, the aquarist hobby is huge and it seems to be growing,” Garvey said. “We look at promoting it because it’s a gateway to getting people more interested in general fishery issues, such as fish farming, which we want to promote. We want to help people reconnect with the wild and look at fishing as an interactive hobby.”

Another big potential business the association will support involves cultivating live coral, which brings a pretty penny on the hobbyist market, as well, Garvey said.

Brian Small, associate professor of animal science, food and nutrition at SIUC, a fish endocrinologist, also will be heavily involved in the association and will serve as valuable resource on captive breeding methods, Garvey said.

The association also will work with existing local fish farmers and those who are interested in starting a fish farm, providing information and expert support, Garvey said. He also hopes the association will provide outreach for students who want to someday help manage large public aquariums.