The Controversy of Keeping Marine Animals in Captivity
There has in recent years been much controversy over Sea World which has captive orcas that many believe are kept in poor conditions, such as tanks that are far too small since in the wild orcas would be able to travel great distances. Some animals such as orcas have also been intentionally removed from the wild to be put on display at Sea World for profit. The other issue is that people have recently been killed while performing with these animals.
Should They Be Made to Perform?
While some people feel that the animals are fine and that there is no problem with Sea World, others feel that they should be closed down and these animals released into the wild or at least housed in appropriate size tanks and in better conditions in general. The controversy has prompted Sea World to start removing the killer whale shows from their program, but Sea World has stated that the orcas would not survive being released back into the wild.
Should They Be Kept as Pets?
Aside from large marine animals, such as orcas, being kept in captivity, there is also the salt-water aquarium trade. Many animals are removed from the marine environment and sold to pet stores where they are sold to customers wanting to set up and keep a salt water aquarium. The problem is the sheer numbers of these organisms, both fish and invertebrates, which are being removed. Many can be easily collected from rock pools. This has a devastating effect on rock pool food chains and ecosystem dynamics. Many rock pools are now empty with no species or with very limited species diversity present.
What About Aquariums?
The positive aspect to the salt-water aquarium trade is that it helps educate people about aquatic life in the oceans. However, many of the animals are not easily bred in captivity, which means that they have to be removed from the wild. A few species, such as clownfish can be reared in captivity, but many still can’t be successfully reared in captivity.
Many fish sold in the US are collected by fish being sprayed with cyanide to stun them first. This is the method regularly used by fish collectors in Asia and Fiji. Most of these fish are taken from coral reefs where the cyanide not only compromises the health of these fish, but all the other inhabitants of the reef, including causing bleaching of the reef.
As many as 80 to 90% of the fish die after being caught, which is tremendously wasteful and means that even more fish need to be caught and removed from their habitat. Coral reefs are already fragile ecosystems, and the aquarium fish trade has now further endangered coral reefs.
Why People Should Care
People may not care about marine invertebrates, such as coral, sea anemones, starfish, sea cucumbers and shrimp. However, these animals all play a role in keeping the marine environment and ecosystem healthy. Removing too many invertebrates, just like the removal of fish, will have a cascading negative effect on food webs and ecosystems. These organisms also recycle nutrients through the reef system.