The term “going green” has been tossed around for years, meaning that a company is making an effort to include more eco-friendly practices in their business model. This trend has long been seen in architectural advances and many individuals have begun to incorporate recycling and other “green” practices into their daily lives. You do not often think about something like an aquarium going green because it is already so natural – right? For zoo aquariums, going green means more than just constructing eco-friendly buildings and offering recycling bins for their patrons – it involves sustainability. In this article you will read about how several major zoos and aquariums have begun to implement “green” sustainability practices.
In-Housing Breeding and Propagation
You may already be aware of sustainability issues in regard to harvesting corals and marine animals from the world’s oceans. Many reefs have been damaged or even destroyed by dangerous collection practices or severe overfishing – areas that were once known for their abundant underwater ecosystems are no longer what they used to be. In many ways, the home aquarium trade is to blame for this destruction. As demand for live corals and marine fish increased, so did the collection. Some Caribbean countries rely almost entirely on the aquarium trade to survive.
Fortunately, many industry representatives and scientists have begun to advocate for more sustainable practices such as in-house propagation or corals and breeding of marine fish. Some of North America’s largest aquariums including Sea World and the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago have even begun to extend these propagation methods beyond the aquarium. Many North American aquariums have begun to research and implement method of artificial insemination for Pacific white-sided dolphins and belugas already in captivity. Because the importation of these animals is so strictly monitored by law and activist groups, aquariums are using the animals they already have to increase the species population.
Research and Advancements
Over the years, the diversity of aquarium collections has expanded significantly. Whereas marine mammals were nowhere to be found in accredited facilities, many aquariums are now aggressively engaging in breeding programs for bottlenose dolphins, killer whales, belugas and more. Not all conservation efforts have been successful, however. The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, GA was the world’s largest aquarium when it opened in 2005 and it has been home to over 120,000 marine animals from 500 species. Some of the notable specimens found in this aquarium include four whale sharks. The Atlanta aquarium is the only facility outside of Asia to house these massive creatures.
The whale shark exhibit opened with the aquarium but, in 2007, two of the whale sharks died during the same year. These deaths sparked a great deal of confusion and controversy regarding the issue of keeping this species in captivity. The whale sharks in the exhibit were taken from Taiwan’s kill quota – they would have been eaten if they weren’t sold to the aquarium – but many still felt that the capture and transport of these creatures was ill-advised. Others, however, cite the Georgia Aquarium as a leader in the field of marine conservation, spearheading research to breed and protect marine mammals.
Other Sustainability Efforts
In addition to breeding programs and conservation efforts, many aquarium have also implemented programs to educate the public about practical sustainability practices. The Monterey Bay Aquarium, for example, is a leader in the Seafood Watch program. This program was designed to increase public awareness about buying sustainable seafood – seafood gathered from species with abundant stocks and caught or farmed in ways that do not damage the environment. This program utilizes its website and printed pocket guides to share information with the public. The South Carolina Aquarium has also joined the fight, partnering with local fishermen in Charleston to establish a local sustainable seafood movement. This movement is designed to benefit both the coastal ecosystem and the local fishing industry.
As the aquarium trade grows in popularity around the world, we must make an effort to ensure that it does not have a negative effect on our environment. Take the time to learn about sustainability and conservation issues related to the aquarium trade and follow the example of some of North America’s largest aquariums in joining the fight for sustainability. As the dominant species on this planet, it is our duty to use our resources responsibly and to do what we can to conserve them. While you may not see the end result of the efforts you make today, your children and your grandchildren may – don’t you want to make the world a better place?