The Reef Hobby- An Endangered Species? Article PLEASE READ. iMPORTANT


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To all US Reef Clubs:

Just read this article (link below) about the need to "RALLY TO SAVE OUR HOBBY". Great article. You guys should try to help with this in some way.

I will do my part from over here in SE Asia by showing companies that are "Tank Raising" or Mariculturing and Aquaculturing Corals in Asian Countries. But in the US, you guys need to show Gov't officials and decision makers (as well as detractors and less knowledgeable activists) all the places in the US that are "growing out" corals "in tanks on land, and trying to no longer harvest from the reefs.

This is Really important. Please help.


It's on FB in Scott Fellman's page.

The Reef Hobby- An Endangered Species?

Back from MACNA, and we’re sort of easing into the post-conference tasks ahead, getting ready for the busy “coral season.”

And guess what?

The hobby is in trouble. Again.

Yeah, really. It’s not “in a few years…” It’s not “At some point in the near future…” It’s not “Eventually…”

It’s right now.

The Reef Hobby- An Endangered Species?-sunset-coral-reef.jpg

Don't believe me? Take a look:

NOAA Lists 20 New Corals as Threatened Under the Endangered Species Act. :: NOAA Fisheries

The U.S. Government has enacted legislation that can seriously impact- or even end- the reef hobby as we know it. Protections for 15 Indo Pacific species have been afforded, meaning that they will be listed as threatened. Species listed include members of the genus Acropora, Euphyllia, and others.

The collection, importation, and distribution of these corals could essentially become illegal. And this is just the beginning. According to some observers, this listing might extend to the genus level, meaning that trade in all Acropora, for example, could be considered off limits-banned entirely, or at best, severely restricted. In other words, the legislation is so sweeping that, regardless of how the corals were sourced, they could be off limits to commerce in the near future.

Look, I am all for passing legislation that protects the reefs, up to and including bans on legitimately endangered species. But the implication by environmental groups that these, or any species, was severely affected solely because of the ornamental aquarium trade is biased, inaccurate, and downright unfair. Although the study did not implicate the aquarium trade as the primary cause, we are the easiest target. The problem here is that this opens the door to far more sweeping, far more restrictive general bans.

It means that even maricultured, aquacultured, and otherwise captive-propagated corals could soon be illegal to sell or purchase. They would be treated in the same sweeping manner as if you were trying to sell White Tigers or some other endangered animals. Under this type of ban, the club frag swap would be as illegal as a bunch of drug dealers swapping samples of crack. Yep.

This could be the real deal. The end of the line for our innocence. It's the sum of all fears… All of the corals that we frag, propagate, and, yes- treasure, could be, in theory, removed from our hobby altogether. For that matter, our hobby could be removed altogether.

Despite apparently reviewing enormous amounts of scientific data, in the mind space of the average non-reefer, government legislators came to the conclusion that the aquarium trade is more damaging to the reefs than say, recreational yachting, tuna fishing, agricultural runoff, bilge pumping, and “eco tourism.”

Despite the fact that the reef aquarium hobby and associated coral propagation industry is absolutely saturated with conscientious purveyors who have worked to grow out thousands of coral frags in their facilities over the years so that wild collection would become unnecessary.

Again, they did not target the trade specifically, but isn't it ironic that there were no restrictions placed on other industries that affect coral health, like eco-tourism, fishing, yacht navigation, etc.? So, in the public's eye, the aquarium tree is the destroyer of the reeds, and must be stopped. Let the yachts continue to pump out bilge and drag anchors across reefs, and let the agricultural trade continue to release silt into the oceans..but quell the aquarium trade!

Is it the final countdown? Time to party “like it’s 1999?"

Who knows for sure at this point?

What we do know is that this legislation represents the biggest threat to the hobby yet.

A celebration must be in order for “Snorkel Bob”, “For the Fishes”, and the other “reef hugger” pseudo-“environmentalist” groups, their reactionary, ill-informed masses, and their ridiculously perverted, largely mis-directed agendas. Through their highly publicized, over-the-top, ridiculously exaggerated and hyper-inflated “data” showing the “egregious" amount of damage the aquarium trade has done to the coral reefs, they may have dealt a decisive blow to a largely responsible, multi-million dollar industry that employs tens of thousands of people worldwide.

Hmm…The aquarium industry causes more damage to corals than a bunch of ignorant, sunblock-smeared tourists flailing about wildly with their rented swim fins over delicate coral reefs, after being delivered by boats with diesel-powered engines and bilge pumps, could do? Apparently so. The mind boggles…

A vivid memory of mine from MACNA in Dallas was when none other than Jean-Michel Cousteau, who, after walking the show floor filled with dozens of coral vendors offering propagated frags, and manufacturers hawking highly advanced equipment for coral care, literally muttered to himself, “I had no idea…”

Why is that? Because we- and that includes many of us in the reef keeping world- hobbyists, vendors, manufacturers- the whole ball of wax- have done a not-so-good job of letting the rest of the non-aquarium-keeping world know that we’re actually a bunch of really cool people who definitely give a darn about the state of the world’s reefs, probably more than the very people, loud though they may be, who are trying to shut down the hobby forever.

Yeah, we got a beat down from a bunch of people who have no clue whatsoever about what the hobby and industry are really like; our ethos, values, and how minimal our impact really is compared to virtually every other threat to the reefs, and to corals in particular.

We are the proverbial “low hanging fruit”- the easiest of the potential targets…Our lobbying power is, apparently, the weakest of all of the apparent groups associated with damage to coral reefs.

So, to a reefer- ALL corals will truly become “LE”- won’t they?

We flat out screwed up. I know I did.

Yes, this is our wake up call. I’m giving all of us the proverbial “b- - - - slap.” And I’m starting with myself.

Instead of writing an article about how the reef hobby is virtually the stewards of the reefs for an airline magazine, National Geographic, or the New York Times, I have been writing pieces about aquascaping and why you should grow macro algae in your sump. I’ve been lecturing about nutrient control and export at MACNA, instead of urging my fellow reefers to become empowered and rally behind those fighting the external threats facing the hobby.

We go nuts on forums and argue about the merits of ULNS, zeolites, what protein skimmer is the best, and which version of the @$@#$%# Acropora is the “real deal”, when, in reality, we all need to be just devoting a fraction of that time telling the non-reefing world about all of the cool stuff we do with corals. Most speakers and authors, such as myself, give a mere passing reference to the problems facing our industry during our talks, and don’t effectively use our “influence” and notoriety to let the outside world know that WE are the true conservationists here.

We don’t “vote with our pocketbooks” enough, making a loud enough tussle to discourage those within our industry from supporting non-sustainable livestock operations and suppliers.

And what did we do to stop this stuff as a hobby and industry?

Not a whole lot, actually. Yeah, I’m calling us all out again: Hobbyists, industry people too. "STARS" OF AQUARIUM-BASED TV SHOWS!! Where are you guys when you could really do some good at reaching a broader audience than virtually anyone else in the aquatics field at the moment? You think that just because you build aquariums for ignorant masses that the potential ban doesn't affect YOU?



We collectively bury our head in the sand year after year, hoping that “they” in some industry lobby that we have made little effort to learn about (PIJAC) can maneuver to stop these bills from being implemented, without our support, save an occasional "attaboy" or nod to an industry advocate like Ret Talbot. We hear the talks at conferences, but we continue to believe that these things are the vague and pointless ramblings of a few “Chicken Littles”, claiming that the sky is falling.

Guess what? The sky IS falling. It actually fell. We screwed around too long, and now the Clownfish are coming home to the anemone for good. The “environmentalists”, in their zealous, unfocused frenzy to get some progress by taking out ANY available target, are mobilized and winning this battle.

How serious is it this time? Well, at MACNA, I had occasion to talk to two of the guys leading the charge for the industry against this threat, ORA’s Dustin Dorton, and Live Aquaria’s Kevin Kohen. Both of these guys were visibly disturbed by the NOAA ruling, and when guys of this caliber get shaken, it’s time for all of us to take it very seriously.

Am I overreacting here? I don't think so- not this time.

Okay, I’ve pointed out what we did wrong. It’s time to talk about what we can do to help.

First, individual hobbyists can spark wider discussions about these topics on the message boards…We need to really let everyone know what’s going on. We need to encourage individuals, clubs, stores, vendors, and anyone associated with the hobby/industry to send monetary donations to the PIJAC (Pet Industry Join Advisory Council):

PIJAC Marine Ornamental Defense Fund 1146 19th Street NW, Suite 350 Washington, D.C. 20036

You can call them at 202-452-1525x1020, or find out more information at

All monies collected will be used to help pay the cost for PIJAC’s legal team fight this legislation, and will go directly to protecting the marine ornamentals hobby.

If you think that you can’t get your friends to donate easily, I suggest a grassroots Facebook campaign similar to that used for the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”- perhaps the PIJAC “Salt Bucket Challenge”, whatever…call out your friends, fellow vendors, industry and non-industry types! Something. Anything.

Second, clubs can have frag swap events and raffles to donate a portion of the proceeds to this fund. Even more important, clubs and even individual hobbyists should reach out into the broader aquarium hobby, and even to the non-aquarium hobby, to solicit support and donations to help this cause.

The detractors are taking our hobby away from the very people who have the most respect and love for the reefs- US! It’s time we fight back…but not with venom and frustration. We need to fight back by letting the rest of the world know the real facts about the impact of our hobby and industry on the wild reefs, and the true amount of concern and caring that we have for these irreplaceable natural resources. If we’ve ever needed to take a stand- now is truly the time.

We need to channel that well-known passion that we all have for this hobby to fight for its accurate representation to the non aquarium world, and indeed, its very survival. We need to work WITH the scientists and researchers who are conducting these studies, and, once and for all, embrace real trade reform and create a sustainable industry that will preserve both the reefs and the hobby for generations to come.

Yes, the reefs are in trouble. And no- our hobby is not the sole cause of it, or even a significant cause of it. We as a group must show no tolerance for non-sustaibale, unethical practices that can endanger these priceless natural resources. We need to let the legislators know that we care more than they could ever imagine, and that we need to enact legislation against those who truly are destroying the reefs without regard for their well-being.

Are we up to the challenge?

The Reef Hobby- An Endangered Species?

Yeah, I think we are…as long as we get our heads out of the sand an accept this legislation as the very real threat that it is, and mobilize our considerable resources to fight it.

The future of this hobby depends on it.

Stay on top of things…Stay focused on the real issues, support the good being done by hobbyists every day-and let others know. Do some real good.

And stay wet…

Scott Fellman
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New member
Seriously, no other responses or comments? Is this for real? Why is no one else commenting on this? I can't tell you how upset I would be if "The Government" told me I had to quit this hobby! Where is the outrage?


New member
Andrew Rhyne is speaking to our club in November about PIJAC and the ESA plus we will have a booth at the OSRAS conference in April asking for donations.


New member
I've shared this on a couple of other (freshwater) forums I inhabit. Hopefully we can start making some noise internationally (I live in the UK) to help you guys I can't imagine anything of this scale not effecting the hobby worldwide. I'm just going through the planning phase for my first reef tank and I don't want the hobby to go under before I get started.
I would like to see some guidelines issued to us so we know what to avoid buying (fish, corals, rock etc) so we as hobbyists can ensure we are supporting this as best we can


Premium Member
Seriously, no other responses or comments? Is this for real? Why is no one else commenting on this? I can't tell you how upset I would be if "The Government" told me I had to quit this hobby! Where is the outrage?

It depends on how this is interpreted. What does the bill actually say? Does it specifically say they want to ban reef tanks in the US? Certain types of coral? This would be like saying they want to ban certain types of alcohol while allowing others. How do you think that would work out?

If they did ban imports, how would it affect the hobby? Some things may become rare and more expensive while everything else would probably be unchanged. There can't be that many tanks failing or demand increasing so much that there isn't enough here already, to go around.

There's aquaculture going on in more and more homes all over the US. And as far as bans, go, let's look at the government's track record. Certain types of drugs are illegal and have been banned in this country for decades. We've spent BILLIONs, maybe TRILLIONS and who knows how much loss of life over it. Are they gone yet?
They tried to ban alcohol. Even during the ban, did it ever happen?

Realistically, they can vote on and attempt to ban anything. But bans don't work very well. It may or may not make business more difficult for hobbyists, but the business goes on.
What's next, would we have to register coral to prove what date we owned it and how it was acquired? Tie up the court systems with reef hobbyists that gave them the finger?

I know there are members of congress that believe they are so important they can wave a magic wand by a "yay or nay" vote and *their will* magically happens over night. Implementation is a whole other game. We banned cell phones while driving and yet about 1 in 10 cars in IL has a driver talking on the phone or texting.
Human nature and desire dictates what happens in the end, irregardless of what law is passed. Even if it did pass, some officers would enforce it while others wouldn't bother wasting their time or even know what they were looking at. Will some authority be going door to door inspecting homes and reefs?

They would have to shut down business that manufacture equipment and chemicals necessary for the hobby. That would be possible but I suspect the outrage would come.
Hey, it's almost Nov. 4th. I guess we decide what type of candidate is qualified to vote on these hair brained bills. I know I wouldn't vote for any candidate interested in micro-managing my life. But 50% of the population is into that. So I don't know what to tell you.


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IMO, with all that's going on in our sick world from terrorism, Ebola, and other issues world governments are trying to handle..........coral reef are not on their radar any time soon. This is just my response to the post above, so Mods please don't send me emails saying I was talking politics. Thank you.


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..........coral reef are not on their radar any time soon.

I hope you are right. But easy victories, viz. your reef, equal success. And success brings good PR and money. And most people won't care if this is unfair.

Chris Rollison

New member
Don't be lulled into inaction. Do some research on what the current folks in Washington have done to the coal industry in this country and you can get a taste for what is headed our way. All in the name of saving the planet, thousands of jobs will disappear and many companies will disappear, reef tanks don't even make a blip on this radar screen.

I'm also afraid of what the future holds for the hobby as 30 second emotional sound bites have replace looking at the research facts to understand how little an impact shutting us down will have towards solving the "real" problem. That's the world we live in today, unfortunately.....


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I definitely agree that we as consumers need to make more of a conscience effort to vote with our dollar and purchase aquacultured tank bred or maricultured whenever possible, even if it means spending a little more $$$ or not getting the exact specimen we wanted


New member
Unfortunately I think to many people suffer from, What difference can Little old me make. Probably not much, that why we need strength in numbers. just saying. already made a few donations to the cause already. "WAKE UP PEOPLE"

Eric Boerner

Coral Cutter
I don't want to stir up a hornets nest, but before jumping on a lobbyist's bandwagon, why not actually figure out what they stand for, and who they're being paid by.

PIJAC doesn't care about coral or fish, it's a low-hanging fruit soundbyte they've latched on to to stir up the reefing hobby community. "Hey everyone, if they list coral, our tanks will be empty". That is farthest from the truth that can be said. They want you to think this, because the wild animal importers are paying them to say it. All they care about is ensuring the importation of creatures keeps coming, so the companies that pay them (pet supply manufacturers) still have an economy.

Instead of trying to block the moral and ethical thing that the US is doing by limiting import of T&E species, they should be putting their rhetoric to action and lobby to develop laws that recognize sustainable coral farms within the US.

Their rhetoric does nothing but confuse hobbyists about the true problem that lies within the reef ecosystem, which is climate change. 2014 was the hottest year on record. Period. Sea surface temps will rise by at least .5% annually. We may not have any reefs to pillage from within the next 50 years. Not listing species will speed that demise up.

Importers recognize this and are attempting to 'grab it all' before it's gone. Hence PIJAC's sudden interest in coral species.

Eric Boerner

Coral Cutter
And since I'm back here looking at this 'yet again'.... I'd like to point out all the holes in Scott's talk:

"... getting ready for the busy “coral season.”" Scott is already biased with his very first sentence, since he owns an import company.

"According to some observers, this listing might extend to the genus level, meaning that trade in all Acropora" - This is a flat out flight of fantasy. There has never been a case of this ever happening in an ESA listing. That is akin to making the canine species illegal because the Tasmanian dog went extinct.

"Although the study did not implicate the aquarium trade as the primary cause, we are the easiest target." - No we are not. PIJAC is making this about us. No one else. The listings are specifically targeted towards climate change regulations, not the pet industry. Get over yourselves.

"...thousands of coral frags in their facilities over the years so that wild collection would become unnecessary" - Then why do you need to continue importing wild species then? Both of us know why...

"...We need to work WITH the scientists and researchers who are conducting these studies." - Hate to break it to ya, but we scientists and researchers at NOAA have reef tanks too. What we don't have is a bias towards listing or not listing a species. That is up to your lobbyist groups.

"... and that we need to enact legislation against those who truly are destroying the reefs without regard for their well-being" - So again... Climate change is the cause. Ripping coral from an already depleted source is furthering it's demise. Listings are meant to limit the further demise of the species.


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Instead of trying to block the moral and ethical thing that the US is doing by limiting import of T&E species, they should be putting their rhetoric to action and lobby to develop laws that recognize sustainable coral farms within the US.

It seems to me the most eco-friendly way of cultivating corals is to mariculture them in their country of origin. That way it can be done without energy consuming equipment except for the transport to the consumer. I can't see how coral farming could be done in the US or Europe for that mater without using allot of energy.

The farms act as artificial reefs. And since theres no mixing of corals from different areas, the corals can be transplanted back to the reefs without risk of spreading disease and invasive species if the need should arise.


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I see your concern but it's not like the hobby is going to disappear. Last week i just bought some zoanthids from syngopore, where it has been illegal to collect corals for decades. The shop had had them all that time and just recently fragged a couple off of their magnificient collection. Well now they're in my reef tank and there's already twice as many as when I bought them. The point is that while it might get a little more expensive, the corals we want will be able to be found. With the Internet, you could find almost any coral you could ever want within a matter of minutes.