The Aquarium Strikes a Blow for Conservation [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: The Aquarium Strikes a Blow for Conservation

10-18-2000, 03:15 PM
Fishing Report Posted 10/16/00
Jerry Vovcsko

When you write columns for readers who like to fish you can count on
finding the e-mailbox full come Monday morning. Here's one that turned
up last week from an irate fisherman:

* Torture at the New England Aquarium ?*

As an avid sportsman who has enjoyed fishing all my life, I was appalled
at what I saw in the outside tank at the New England Aquarium
yesterday. The tank which usually houses the Harbor Seals has been
occupied for several
months instead, by a school of about forty Striped Bass. As I walked
near the tank I saw them with their heads crammed into the corner
swimming feverishly into the glass. As I approached I soon saw the
reason why.
Someone, probably with a PhD in Marine Biology, made the decision to
put the seals back into the tank with the fish. I, as well as other
spectators with children, watched as the seals picked fish as easily as
grapes off the vine. They then played a cruel game of cat and mouse
with their injured
prey. On the tank floor were the bodies of two unlucky fish with their
heads chewed off, while several others were trying to remain swimming,
with slashed tails and fins. I questioned an aquarium employee about it.
She said that the seals were raised in captivity and that they didn't think
they would attack the fish. I guess they didn't ask the fish how they'd
like to be trapped in a tank with one of their most feared mortal
predators. Maybe they could have asked some of grade school children
who go their on field trips, they'd have probably given the right answer.

Striped Bass are a protected species and are recovering thanks to
tremendous efforts made by government agencies and sportsmen alike.
There is a size limit and only one fish per day can be taken by
fishermen. The fish killed by the foolish decision to put the seals in the
tank were definitely undersized. There is a substantial fine for taking
such fish,
maybe the Aquarium should pay this fine and be forced to send
whoever's bright idea it was back to school to learn some common
sense. Or, simply put the fish out of their misery and take them across
the street to Legal Seafood, but again, they are illegal fish! *

Now I found that e-mail very disturbing, so I called the aquarium folks to
see what it was all about and soon received a call back from a cheerfull
young lady in the Press Relations department. Fully expecting to hear
an indignant denial that no one the least bit familiar with the marine
environment would do such a stupid thing, I asked if it was true that
there had been a tank full of striped bass on exhibit and that somebody
on staff had decided to put seals in with the fish. But no! Instead, the
spokesperson cheerily explained that the fish had been caught by staff
from the pier behind the aquarium and, yes, they had been put on exhibit
in a large tank. She went on to say that the seals were introduced into
the tank because aquarium staff reasoned that " the seals had been
raised in captivity and fed only dead fish they should be able to co-exist
with the striped bass."
She further informed me that after the slaughter the stripers were
released back into Boston Harbor, the ones that survived, that is. She
went on to point out that in the aquarium's view the exhibit had been a
good forum for a conservation display, that is to say, "Look how well the
stripers have recovered from the problems of the 1980s."
With my brain reeling from that lesson in PR-speak I conducted an
informal poll with my two children, ages 11 and 13. Iasked what would
happen if seals raised in captivity and fed only dead fish were put into a
tank with striped bass. My 13 year old son said, "They'd kill every one
and eat them." My daughter rolled her eyes at me for asking such a
stupid question and said, "Duhhh, dad, the same thing as if you threw a
live chicken into a cage full of tigers."
Of course, neither child has a PhD in marine biology but, judging from
the decisions made by the sages at the New England Aquarium, I think I
trust the kids' judgement a bit better. With friends like the folks up there
in Boston the fish don't need enemies.

10-18-2000, 03:59 PM
I found that to be an unbeleivable story , And I guess the real problem is that the New England Aquarium is just another stupid commercial enterprise where misguided sensationalism governs more than conservation or reasoning.

10-18-2000, 05:03 PM
Not sure what good it will do, but I'll talk to someone. I'm a member and have always felt good about being one. I
I still do - and can't believe this went on.

i'm so outta here
10-18-2000, 05:14 PM

Score one for the nature camp in the nature vs. nurture debate. Yes, Aquarium <b>P</b><font size="1">ost</font><!--1--> <b>h</b><font size="1">ole</font><!--1--> <b>D</b><font size="1">iggers</font><!--1-->, seals born in captivity never were taught how to hunt, but didn't the possibility of it being an instictive trait ever enter your minds?

How does that Steely Dan song go "....the things that pass for knowledge I still can't understand."

10-18-2000, 06:38 PM
Thats comforting, we just sent them 3,000 baby Alewives from the Nemasket River in Middleboro. Will they put them in the display tank with the Penguins?

10-19-2000, 07:11 AM
As one who has been accused of being a professional marine biologist (well, I play one on TV), this kind of thing drives me nuts! Although, 'Marine Biologist' covers such a wide area... For all the good work that goes on, it only takes one idiot move such as this one to set us back. Once again, not all (insert your profession here) are equal. What makes this even worse is that when compared to a place like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, this really looks bad. This would Never(!) happen at MBA. This 'fishing report' is going up on the Idiot Wall at the office.