Eco-Friendly Aquarists Hub

Unknown profit model, Open source, Ideation Phase, Eager to add new members
Organizing saltwater aquarium hobbyists online to collect data on their tanks, and generate positive eco-conscious change in the aquarium trade

The Problem

Between climate change, plastic pollution, and overfishing, our oceans and especially reefs are already in a precarious position. On top of that however, we have to account for the aquarium trade. As of 2014, over 1800 species of fish and 1,000 species of invertebrates are being captured and removed from reefs worldwide using toxic practices like dumping cyanide on reefs to stun all the species at once for easy pickings, but of which only 1 in 9 will survive the journey to hobbyists homes. You don't have to be an expert to understand that dumping toxic poisons like cyanide all over the place is bad for the planet and any ecosystem. Yet there are few regulations, questionable quotas, and lax reinforcement in the sector, with most harvests coming from the waters of the Coral Triangle in SE Asia where some 70% of livestock were sourced from as of 2010. However, efforts are being made to expand the diversity and availability of captive bred live stock, but it only accounts for some 10% as of 2014, well outpaced by demand for wild harvested species. Market trends are self-reinforced by growth of eco conscious consumers and more sustainable options over time. Saltwater aquarium hobbyists who don't want to see their money going towards destroying an already endangered ocean need to organize to leverage their consumer power. Why not gather a ton of helpful meta-data at the same time by partnering it with a hobbyist digital cataloging platform, or frag exchange?

Our Proposal

Organize aquarists who care about conservation to take the lead in consumer advocacy on best practices for the saltwater aquarium hobby going forward, starting with a digital cataloging and open data sharing platform. Aquarists would create individual tank and reef profiles, updated with frag exchanges or eventually captive cultured purchases, so as to start getting better information about what already exists in the hobbyist community in captivity. Casting a wide net and then whittling down to a core of different member levels would help to identify market driven ways to reduce existing harms, broadening our understanding of captive culture, working with with responsible businesses, governments, public aquariums, zoos, universities, marine sanctuaries, relevant government regulators, and more. In addition to identifying or addressing issues like cyanide dumping, transparency, etc. The group can: -negotiate discounts with businesses offering captive bred species in exchange for a dedicated market share, and ID positive trends and practices to strategically reinforce with purchasing power -catalogue hobbyist held species and tank conditions, sharing data and samples of genetics from resilient hobbyist strains of corals with academics and climate change adaptation researchers , -build on existing efforts and progress over time, creating a culture of activism in the aquarist community and inspiring the next generation of young DIY activists and climate change leaders

We Assume that...

that vendors will be able to offer sufficient stock/variety of captive bred species,

that a fully "live" reef tank can be cycled and stabilized without any wild-harvested species,

that coral or zooxanthellae strains and samples can be logistically sourced from enough willing hobbyists, and provided to scientists, without compromising research quality/laboratory requirements

that businesses do not react in a hostile manner,

That enough hobbyists will be willing to commit to going towards an all captive bred model of the hobby,

that remote monitoring equipment could still potentially be subsidized or standardized more quickly and accessibly to create a uniform data gathering set of probes or home setups for research.

that aquariums, zoos, universities, and public institutions will be willing to cooperate and kickstart local cooperative programs in their own communities or share with others online across the globe

that an online platform could be made to properly catalogue a tank's specimens via user input, images, and without expensive remote monitoring equipment, filtering the data so to speak,

Constraints to Overcome

Presently, the impact of the saltwater aquarium trade is largely seen negatively, and environmental groups are loathe to reach out to hobbyists for fear of being tainted in the process or out of a sense of disdain for DIY amateurs who are really just the next generation of climate leaders. Businesses are pushing forward on availability and diversity of captive bred species, but organizing consumers can accelerate these changes and help shape the industry going forward in a more transparent and sustainable ocean and people friendly manner, that also allows hobbyists to be engaged citizen scientists, protecting sustainable reefs in the wild, and focuses more on combining public climate science educational opportunities and securing the passion of creative change makers now in their existing communities with the web's unique capacity for crowdsourcing simple diy solutions to complex problems and maintaining honesty through transparent sharing platforms.

Current Work

1) Outreach to hobbyist communities (most importantly), academics, businesses, and any relevant stakeholders to gauge interest in an organization like this. 2) Outreach to researchers to determine the viability of providing hobbyist sourced coral/zooxanthellae genetics for assisted evolution research, and calculating a budget for the logistical needs of a pilot program. 3) Develop a budget for app to catalogue current captive saltwater aquarium species & also all newly available captive bred species. 4) Develop a sustainable budget/revenue model long-term based on membership dues, fees for service, public or institutional partnerships, while insulating from undue influence from governments or corporations in exchange for financial resources. 5) Build an advisory board/governance model. 6) Become experts on existing sustainability efforts and sourcing practices by vendors, and all relevant legal and regulatory oversight mechanisms. 7) Create a viable captive-bred-only demo reef tank.

Current Needs

1) Time, patience, and way to organize feedback for all the outreach, which will hopefully inform development of a long-term strategic mission or guiding principles. 2) A home for the project, including governing structure, such as possibly a fiscal sponsor, website and email hosting, name, means of organizing members, volunteers, or eventually staff or contractors. 3) Money for all of the above, or in-kind resources, and a more coherent, polished long-term model for funding and governance. 4) Experienced advisors from diverse backgrounds with expert insight and willingness to provide guidance, feedback, and possibly connecting to funders. 6) Hutzpah, moxie, drive, luck, diligence, determination, and lots of it, especially from potential members, hobbyists, and supporters. 7) Humility to learn and take critical feedback along the way.