Petco will collaborate with Defenders of Wildlife to develop sustainable protocols for fish collectors. Petco is expanding its own selection of saltwater fish that are aquacultured, or raised in an aquarium environment. This is the first collaboration of its kind and the first by a pet store with Petco’s size and purchasing power.
Collecting fish from oceans or lakes is detrimental for those ecosystems. An online survey of 1,200 adults conducted by Research Now found that 74% of consumers would purchase aquacultured fish over fish that were collected from an ocean or lake.
Defenders of Wildlife and Petco are asking pet owners, enthusiasts, and advocates to take a stand against damaging fish practices by choosing aquacultured fish instead of fish that were collected in the wild. Defenders of Wildlife will help Petco identify and protect specific marine fish species that are vulnerable to over-collection, improving practices for their fish suppliers to minimize harm to coral reef environments and developing ways to track the success of these efforts.
According to Defenders of Wildlife conservationist Dr. Daniel Thornhill, this partnership began after years of assessing coral reefs worldwide.
“For the past several years, Defenders of Wildlife has been working to improve the conservation of coral reefs throughout the world,” explained Thornhill.
“Because of this work and because of Petco’s role as an industry leader in the coral reef wildlife trade, Petco reached out to us looking for guidance on improving marine life collection practices. Since then, Defenders has worked closely with Petco to provide scientific expertise and recommendations for improved sustainable practices.”
He added: “Petco is the largest U.S. retailer of marine aquatic life, and by collaborating with them, we will significantly improve marine aquatic life collection practices to benefit coral reef ecosystems.”
According to Thornhill, who is an expert in coral reef research, coral reefs are imperiled globally.
“A recent report by World Resources Institute estimated that over 60% of reefs worldwide are currently threatened by local problems like pollution and overfishing and a full 75% of reefs are threatened by climate change and ocean acidification,” he stated.
“One under-recognized but potentially significant problem is the collection of coral reef wildlife for the aquarium trade. There are more than 1,800 fish species collected from reefs to supply this trade, and most of the wildlife collected is imported to the United States. While many of these species can be collected sustainably, over-exploitation has greatly diminished populations of some popular species such as Banggai cardinalfish, mandarinfish, and many clownfish.”
Defenders of Wildlife has been working in a number of different areas to conserve reefs, ranging from documenting the effects of climate change to proposing new ways to sustainably manage coral reefs.
“I’m excited about our collaboration with Petco,” Thornhill stated.
“This initiative aims to eliminate harmful marine life collection practices, help prevent overfishing and, whenever possible, encourage the sale of aquacultured fish instead of wild-collected fish. Reducing over-collection and damaging collection techniques helps both coral reefs and fish, and preserves complex reef ecosystems. These new commitments to reduce destructive fishing will have a positive impact on coral reefs and hopefully will be a catalyst for improvements throughout the entire marine aquarium industry.”
Rich Williams, Vice President of Companion Animals for Petco, hopes that this partnership will change the entire aquatics industry.
“We are challenging the aquatics industry to follow our lead in making positive changes that protect coral reefs,” stated Williams.
“Our efforts include educating our customers and the general public about environmentally responsible practices, and encouraging aquarium enthusiasts to choose aquacultured fish, which are born and raised in a tank environment, and not collected from the ocean. Going forward, we will analyze the effects of our efforts on fish populations and formulate new strategies to help reef ecosystems thrive."
Thornhill offers three ways that consumers can help protect marine ecosystems today:
- When buying a pet fish, ask where it came from and encourage your friends and family to do the same. If you’re not sure, consider looking for fish that you know were sourced sustainably.
- Choose freshwater fish for your aquarium. Freshwater fish are almost all aquacultured – meaning that they were born and raised in an aquarium and not collected from lakes or the ocean. Freshwater fish are also generally less expensive and easier to care for.
- If you do decide to keep a saltwater aquarium, keep wild fish wild and choose only aquacultured fish and corals. Aquacultured marine life is well acclimated to life in an aquarium and has no impact on coral reefs.
To take the pledge, visit www.ChooseAquacultured.org.
To learn more about Defenders of Wildlife, visit www.defenders.org.
To learn more about Petco’s commitments to marine aquatic life, visit www.petco.com/aquacultured.
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