Beginnings of concern for fish suffering emerge even in the desert
ST. GEORGE, Utah; BERLIN, Germany––Josh Wilson of Scenic, Arizona, owner of Polaris Can-Am & Honda World in Mesquite, Nevada, a longtime sponsor of off-road races, likely will never be mistaken for a bleeding heart animal rights activist.
Yet it can be said that Wilson remembered his fish when interviewed by St. George News reporter Nick Yamashita on January 22, 2023 about an electrical fire that razed his RV and greenhouse.
“A couple of hundred fish died,” Wilson told Yamashita. “The poor fish were the real victims.”
“Wilson explained he had a fish pond of 4,000-5,000 gallons of water with carp, largemouth bass, and other types of bass,” wrote Yamashita.
“The greenhouse,” Yamashita added, “was an aquaponics greenhouse that was about to start up as a business.”
The fish were to provide organic fertilizer as they swam among the plants that were to have been Wilson’s primary crop.
AquaDom blow-up shocked Berlin
The loss of Wilson’s aquaponics facility recalled the explosion of the 52-foot-high, 264,000 gallon AquaDom saltwater aquarium at the Radisson Blu hotel early on December 16, 2022.
Built in 2003, upgraded in 2020, the AquaDom for 20 years was the world’s largest cylindrical aquarium.
Structural failure tentatively attributed to the effects of unusually cold weather spilled approximately 1,500 fish of more than 100 species into the Radisson Blu lobby.
About 200 fish were rescued from the bottom of the ruptured tank and transported to the Berlin Zoo.
Also sent to the Berlin Zoo were approximately 630 fish from separate underground breeding tanks that were unaffected by the explosion of the main tank.
Those fish would otherwise have suffocated when the AquaDom aeration system was shut down to facilitate clean-up and repairs.
All but nine of the rescued fish have survived and recovered, according to Berlin Zoo media statements.
Whether the AquaDom will be rebuilt or repurposed is as yet uncertain
Views changing in western Europe
Globally, fish continue to be hauled out of the oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, and aquaculture tanks and killed by the uncounted billions, with scant concern for their suffering.
But Josh Wilson’s acknowledgement that “The poor fish were the real victims,” and widely expressed concern for the AquaDom fish hint that human attitudes toward fish may be changing, if just barely, beginning in western Europe.
The city of Rome, Italy, led the way in 2005 by banning spherical fish bowls and prohibiting giving away fish as fairground prizes.
Giving away fish as prizes is already prohibited in many U.S. jurisdictions, but primarily to prevent goldfish from being released into streams and lakes, rather than for humane reasons.
The Rome daily newspaper Il Messaggero reported that spherical fish bowls cause fish to go blind, and that they provide insufficient oxygen for fish, but neither contention was documented.
The oxygen content of water in a fish bowl, in any event, would depend chiefly on the number and sizes of fish held in the bowl, the amount and condition of any vegetation in the bowl, and the quality of the aeration system.
Switzerland followed Rome in April 2008 by including some protections for fish in a new national humane law.
Among them, explained Bojan Pancevski for the London Times, were stipulations “that aquariums for pet fish should not be transparent on all sides and that owners must make sure that the natural cycle of day and night is maintained in terms of light.
“Goldfish are considered social animals”
“Goldfish are considered social animals, or gruppentiere in German,” Pancevski continued, so may not be kept in bowls alone.
“Anglers will also be required to complete a course on catching fish humanely, with the government citing studies indicating that fish can suffer too,” Pancevski said.
Added Agence France-Presse, “It is now also forbidden for Swiss anglers to practise catch-and-release fishing or to use live fish as bait.”
The only known attempted prosecution for cruelty to fish under the 2008 law, however, in a 2010 case brought in Zurich by animal rights lawyer Antoine F. Goetschel, was rejected by the court.
Round bowl sales discontinued
Spherical fish bowls have reportedly been banned since then in Germany and various other western European jurisdictions.
In January 2022 the French aquarium equipment vendor AgroBiothers Laboratoire announced that it would no longer sell spherical fish bowls, and would no longer sell any aquariums with a capacity of less than 15 liters, having previously sold as many as 50,000 fish bowls per year.
Explained AgroBiothers CEO Matthieu Lambeaux to the Reuters news service, “People buy a goldfish for their kids on impulse, but if they knew what a torture it is, they would not do it. Turning round and round in a small bowl drives fish crazy and kills them quickly.
“A French anachronism”
“It is a French anachronism. That is why we decided to move. We cannot educate all our customers to explain that keeping fish in a bowl is cruel. We consider that it is our responsibility to no longer give consumers that choice,” said Lambeaux.
Belgian animal welfare minister Bernard Clerfayt indicated several months later that the Brussels-Capital region would soon ban round fish bowls, but his remarks were reported on April Fools Day.