TAILPIECE

Tra­di­tion­ally, this is the time to re­flect, Janus-like, on the past 12 months and look ahead to the next. And it’s scary – have fish­keep­ing’s ethics gone one step for­wards and 10 steps back?

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Nathan looks back at 2018 and won­ders if this was the year that ethics in fish­keep­ing flew out of the win­dow?

Was this the year that ethics went out of the win­dow? i hate to say it, but after a year of writ­ing rel­a­tively up­beat op-eds, i’ve de­cided to re­flect on the year, and i’m narked off about a lot of it.

Re­turn of the gi­ants

the big fish are back. Well, not quite. ‘the’ big fish that were a prob­lem a few years ago have mainly gone away – i don’t see many Pan­ga­sius, Osphrone­mus or young Pacu any­more. in their place has ar­rived a con­voy of new, some­how so­cially ac­cept­able beasts. You only need to look at the com­ments un­der any so­cial me­dia post to see just how ac­cepted they now are. Gone are the no­ble few who would de­cry such a sight. We do have more big­ger tanks than ever, for sure. But do we have more Mother of snails cat­fish-sized tanks? i doubt it.

Call of the wild

‘that’ ice­land ad­vert has done the rounds. Ev­ery­one is out­raged at palm oil pro­duc­tion, be­tween huge mouth­fuls of palm-based snacks. We’re all about pro­tect­ing the wild an­i­mals now, right?

Nada. Just five min­utes back i was splut­ter­ing my dis­dain as a re­tailer proudly bragged about their lat­est im­port on­line. a whole box of en­dan­gered fish. Fish that i thought an in­dige­nous gov­ern­ment had banned from col­lec­tion and ex­port. Looks like some­one found a loop­hole then. We have some­how made an idol out of the idea of a wild fish. ‘Wild’ is su­pe­rior, and to hell with the ram­i­fi­ca­tions. so what if there are only 12 left in the jun­gle – that makes them even cooler right? Well, no. it just means you’re pay­ing through the nose for some­thing that would be bet­ter off in a con­ser­va­tion pro­gramme. i won­der how this even dif­fers from those guys who used to col­lect rare birds’ eggs. if you’re not buy­ing to breed and con­serve, why bother?

Easy feed­ers

i see that live feed­ing has emerged from its seedy bur­row once more. Not just emerged but be­come a ghoul­ish spec­ta­tor sport on­line. Gold­fish are fair game, it seems. Gulper cats, Pi­ran­has and heavy-set, hulk­ing ci­ch­lids the en­ter­tain­ers. and what’s worse is the whole scene is spurred on by folks with the damn­d­est and most vac­u­ous forms of rea­son­ing. ‘it’s what would hap­pen in the wild!’ they cry, as though the bru­tally amoral Dar­win­ism of the wilder­ness should be the tem­plate for our ‘civilised’ ac­tiv­i­ties.

tetanus is the kind of thing that hap­pens in the wild, old chap. tetanus with­out treat­ment and an ag­o­nis­ing death. But you don’t see me in the hos­pi­tal, live-stream­ing your lock­jaw and spasms for the en­ter­tain­ment of oth­ers and shout­ing ‘it’s what hap­pens in the wild’ to any­one who turns up and tries to help you. ‘it hap­pens in the wild’ is a non-ar­gu­ment and one we should have dis­carded decades ago.

Is it just a fish?

i never imag­ined – but in­ter­nally feared – that the dis­mis­sive phrase ‘it’s only a fish’ would make such a re­turn. i’ve heard it a few times this year. as some­one who only spo­rad­i­cally vis­its aquar­ium re­tail­ers, that’s a ter­ri­fy­ing num­ber of times. i shouldn’t hear it at all, even if i worked in re­tail and spoke to ev­ery sin­gle cus­tomer.

it seems the hobby has hit a re­gres­sive phase. Our tech­nol­ogy is bet­ter than ever, but our mo­ral com­pass has mis­aligned as some per­verse com­pen­sa­tion for that.

i have a hor­ri­ble sus­pi­cion that 2019 is go­ing to be more of the same. i fear that too many good fish­keep­ers have gone silent on is­sues that re­ally mat­ter, while the bad ones are be­ing all too vo­cal.

Be­cause we all need a 90cm+ cat­fish...

Nathan Hill is Prac­ti­cal Fish­keep­ing magazine’s as­so­ci­ate edi­tor, biotope fancier, aquas­cape dab­bler and part-time am­a­teur skate­boarder.

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