Biologists score breakthrough in raising reef fish
By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer
Hawai'i biologists have made three breakthroughs in the captive raising of prized Hawaiian reef fish.
The flame angelfish is one of three Hawaiian reef fish that biologists have managed to raise in captivity.
At the same time, biologist Karen Brittain at the Waikiki Aquarium has reared Hawaiian masked angelfish for the first time, also by finding a food source for its larval form. And, Frank Baensch, an independent contractor working in association with the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology, developed techniques to grow Fisher's angelfish in captivity.
In all three cases, the food sources are microscopic forms of marine life called zooplankton.
The discoveries mark a huge step for the protection of Hawai'i's reefs, from which collectors take too many aquarium fish, and for the peace of mind of collectors, whose hobby has been conducted at the expense of the environment.
More than 400,000 reef fish are collected from Hawai'i's reefs annually for the aquarium trade. The collecting has made such an impact that populations have been depleted in some heavily poached areas, and the state has banned collecting on certain reefs to protect resources.
Researchers at the different organizations collaborated on developing techniques for the angelfish, accounting for the three breakthroughs at about the same time.
Waikiki Aquarium Director Bruce Carlson called it a "landmark achievement in the field of aquaculture."
"The challenge now for our researchers is to convert these early achievements into reliable technology that will allow commercial cultivation of high-value species," said Anthony Ostrowski, fin-fish program manager for the Oceanic Institute.
Correction: Frank Baensch, an independent contractor working in association with the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology, developed techniques to grow Fisher's angelfish in captivity. A previous version of this story had different information.