White Manta Diving, a local dive operator will be conducting an "Adopt-a-fish" program over the weekend in areas that include the Johor Marine Park and the Anambas archipelago.
For an adoption fee of between $18-$90, tourists can release a frogfish, a pair of seahorses or a pair of mandarinfish into reefs close to the dive sites at which they operate.
According to the operator, the fishes in question have either been "donated by marine aquarists" or "liberated from aquarium shops". It is not certain what their origin is, apart from the fact that they are from the "Indo-Pacific region".
As a tourist/diver, here are 7 simple questions you should ask before participating in such an activity:
1. What is the objective of such a venture? e.g. Research experiment, marketing gimmick, welfare objective (i.e. setting wild animals free), event promotion (e.g. Earth Day, Environment Day, World Animal Day, Vesak Day etc.)
2. How sustainable and appropriate is the activity with regards to the objective? Can the adopted animals be monitored and with what methods and frequency? Are the methods credible? Is there a resident scientist involved? What are the impacts of releasing non-native species into new reefs? Who are the people that will conduct the follow up surveys?
3. What is the origin of the animals and what method was used to collect them? 95% of all marine ornamental fish are derived from the wild. Where these methods sustainable and socially and environmentally responsible?
4. What is the source of the animals? Which aquarium/s were they from? Are they environmentally and socially responsible companies? Have they traded in endangered species? Why are animals that could be sold for profit being released into the wild?
5. What is the agenda of the organisers and the donors? e.g. Profit making? Conservation? Pioneering study? Education?
6. How are the funds being used and generated? Are the uses of the funds publicly known/transparent? e.g. Educational projects, Donated to an NGO or marine research fund, Awareness campaigns, Profit
7. What is your objective in participating in such an activity? Is this a feel-good experience? Are you in support of the organisers objectives? For a chance to see these rare animals up close? Are you just doing this because its part of your holiday package?
The Hantu Blog urges all divers and marine tourists to be responsible and educated about the choices they make. If we seek pleasure from this amazing marine environment, it is crucial that our choices play a part in ensuring its sustainability for our future enjoyment and that of others.
Global Invasive Species Database
IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group
Invasive Species Weblog
Invasive Species on the Conservation Science Institute