Ornamental Fish International Revisited: Working with Conservationists on Communicating Sustainability


                        @lgerminder at Interzoo2018

While I was at Interzoo to cover the companion animal categories we primarily are engaged in now, I reconnected with Ornamental Fish International (OFI) as the Hawaiian fish-collecting permit ban is still in place. OFI has long represented the interests of the ornamental fish industry and I handled public relations work for the U.S. branch office for a number of years. A name that had been associated with OFI internationally that was in the dusty outreaches of my mind came to the fore.

John Dawes. He’s still at it, And, lucky for the ornamental fish-keeping industry. Paul Bakuwel is now Secretary General of OFI and works closely with Dawes and OFI officials. While the current issue at hand is the Hawaiian fish-collecting permit ban, my public relations work with the U.S. brand office and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) focused on a Singapore fish ban and other U.S.  domestic issues.

While bans are not new, the pet-owning public’s interest in sustainability is at a much higher level, and the need for communicating the complex issues at hand and the collaborative work with conservation groups has never been greater. Enter Dawes, an international ornamental aquatic industry consultant with more than 50 books and contributor to more than 4,000 articles to hobby, trade and academic publications, is not only hard at work as editor of the OFI Journal but engaged in other activities with the Secretariat and other OFI officials to bring to light the cooperation between the conservation community and industry.  Quoting John Dawes from the OFI Journal,

“As a result of the ever-expanding understanding and collaboration that we have experienced…a new way of perceiving the relationship between conservation and ethical commercial activities has arisen. Industry is no longer seen as the problem, but as an integral part of the solution.”

These are optimistic words, yet with the ban on Hawaiian fish-collecting permits in place and other areas of the world debating similar actions the risk of not communicating this good work is great indeed.  The facts remain the majority of freshwater fish are farm-bred and while marine fish are primarily wild-caught, this can and has been done with sustainable methods. In addition, banning all wild-caught fish can have a devastating impact on local economies that depend on it for their livelihood. The OFI Journal has published a special conservation issue. To learn more, visit Ornamental Fish International. We hope to be writing more about this important topic in the future. Nice work Mr. Dawes and OFI. Nice work.

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