The role of advocacy organizations in the pet industry has been paramount to the industry’s overall expansion in the past decade. Pet advocacy groups provide critical information to would-be pet owners, provide support to retailers and breeders and provide a one-stop-shop for anyone interested in a given type of pet. There are several organizations, such as the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), that are making waves in the pet trade.
Within the pet industry, the sub-section of marine aquaculture has always faced significant difficulties. Despite continual evolution of breeding techniques and aquatic technology, less than 10 percent of commercially available marine aquarium fish are bred in captivity. This leads to supply and demand issues, to say nothing of the health issues that can be endemic to wild-caught animals being kept as pets.
Further, because of the location density of many marine ornamental fish, the act of catching these fish has had significant repercussions on the local ecosystem, particularly around coral reef habitats. The use of aquaculture, as such, works to not only make the industry more sustainable, but also more environmentally friendly and more transparent for the end consumer.
Founded in 2009, Rising Tide Conservation focuses primarily on promoting and developing marine ornamental fish aquaculture methods by bringing together researchers, hobbyists, pet industry professionals and conservation groups to share knowledge and establish best practices within the industry.
As of 2018, Rising Tide’s reach has spread to over 2 million individuals, sharing information about marine fish species, aquaculture research and the state of coral reefs throughout the world. What’s more, Rising Tide sponsors a number of educational programs, including internships for graduate students and funds for programs at both the high school and undergraduate levels.
Since its inception, Rising Tide’s research efforts have resulted in a number of great successes. Utilizing Rising Tide’s methodology and initial protocols, the University of Florida’s Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory established the first successful aquaculture of the blue tang (Paracanthurus hepatus), the species made famous by the character Dory in “Finding Nemo.”
Similarly, as part of Rising Tide’s collaboration efforts, aquaculture breeder Proaquatix partnered with the University of Florida’s Indian River Research & Education Center to bring the first batch of aquacultured Cuban hogfish (Bodianus pulchellus) to market, the proceeds of which were donated back to help fund future aquaculture research. Notably, all research collected by Rising Tide is publicly available on its website, providing a phenomenal research to anyone interested in marine ornamental fish.
Currently, Rising Tide Conservation has contributed to the successful aquaculture of nearly 30 separate marine ornamental fish species, most of which are now available for commercial purchase. However, as Rising Tide continues to make partnerships between pet-industry experts, researchers, university programs and other stakeholders, this number is sure to grow.
Pet industry partners have provided donations—both monetary and material, as well as firsthand advice and guidance as to industry trends and needs. And, by making their research publicly available, Rising Tide reduces the barriers to entry, ensuring that even single proprietorship stores have an ability to take on aquaculture on a commercial scale.
It comes as no surprise that Rising Tide Conservation’s name came from the old adage, “A rising tide lifts all ships.” While the level of results Rising Tide has sought (and achieved) take significant effort, its focus on collaboration and cooperation between stakeholders continues to bring together stakeholders from across the world in appreciation of marine aquaria.
Rising Tide Conservation’s continued dedication to the growing focus on sustainability and captive breeding practices will surely bear dividends within the pet industry for years to come. The partnership of industry insiders, research groups and other experts stands as the ideal for knowledge-sharing organizations within the pet trade. For more information on Rising Tide Conservation, visit its website.