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Fish quality

Posted By: Dr. Momfish <gkadar@idirect.ca>
Date: Saturday, 13 May 2000, at 10:41 a.m.

In Response To: I Wrote An Article... (Joe Loach)

The subject of poor quality fish came up recently when my cousin spoke with a vet at the University of Guelph. This guy is responsible for checking food fish, whether for local market or for export. It's a government service involving not only checking the quality of conditions under which fish are farmed, but also sampling the blood of these fish in order to detect disease. They do 10 different tests that are done on most food fish. He also destroys all sick fish.

I have a friend coming from Scotland on a visit. We have bred some fish that she would like to take home with her except that to import tropical fish into Scotland, we have to obtain a government vet certificate. It's taken over two weeks of message leaving, wild goose chasing etc. The Canadian system is not set up for this sort of thing. On the contrary, any tropical fish can be imported without certification (except the CITES designated species).

This vet is disgusted with the way in which tropical fish are imported, distributed and sold. He said 'every fish has disease if you look hard enough and test them', it's just a matter of how they are treated as to whether they survive. The losses are tremendous. He would like to see the entire system regulated but there are no government funds and no staff allocation. If regulations would be implemented, fish would be much more expensive. They could not be handled the way they are at present. Staff in stores would also have to take training courses which would then eliminate all the high school kids who work part-time for minimum wage and form the bulk of employees.

So what if fish would cost a lot more money? Don't you find it ironic that it can cost 60 dollars to set up a small aquarium and maybe 10 dollars to stock the tank? Look at Oscars for example. They sell for less than 3 dollars each while tiny, but as adults they require a huge aquarium which would cost the hobbyist anywhere from 600 to 1200 dollars. It's no wonder that the uneducated customer purchasing poor quality fish from uneducated, uninformed people at stores like Walmart and Petsmart consider fish to be a 'disposable commodity'. When the tank cost 60 dollars, what's the big deal purchasing fish for a few dollars, watching them die in short order and replacing them over and over again? There are people out there who actually don't think there's anything wrong with having to restock their tank every month or so: like cut flowers which wilt in the vase. Regulating the tropical fish trade would make the fish prohibitively expensive for these types of people. It would also ensure that the newbies who presently get discouraged and give up the hobby would have access to good information, fish that survive, and thus remain customers of the stores.

Given Joe Loach's upsetting experience, it would appear that the situation in the US is no different than the one here in Canada. The only way to put pressure on stores like Petsmart is to purchase everything at small stores where the livestock are treated properly. However, the Petsmarts also carry much more in the way of drygoods than the mom and pop stores. They buy cat and dog foods in bulk, get bulk discounts and thereby can afford to undercut smaller retailers. It goes against 'common sense' to pay 25 to 30 percent more for a bag of dog food at a small store. The catchbasin of customers who shop at a Petsmart is larger and more varied than at an lfs. Profits earned through bulk buying and selling offset the loss of livestock inventory and stores earn lucrative profits in spite of the fact that their aquarium livestock may have abyssmal survival rates both in the store and in the home aquarium.

At the same time, who are we? Is the number of serious hobbyists via clubs, large enough to put pressure on governments to change anything? Unlike lobby groups funded by millions of private dollars, I don't think the aquarium hobbyists in either country can muster up enough pressure to change anything. All we can do is 'vote with our feet' and shop elsewhere. Sad, but true.


 

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