Pet Chain Stores are the cause for invasive species
Debate Rounds (3)
We owe most of our problems to top pet stores such as Petsmart, Petco, and PetSuperMarket. How? Under educated staff, profit, and misinformed customers.
Most of our problems originate at the store even before they are brought home. Often people are not informed or misinformed about the fish when they purchase it. Top Pet stores will tell you about anything to sell off the fish. Most staff are under trained and usually don't know anything about the department they work in. They themselves are just learning about the fish. Example: Pacu get up to 33" but most chained pet stores will sell them to people who have ten gallon aquariums, and the Pacu quickly out grow them in less than a few months.
Although the main problem starts from the fish being sold, the problem that leads to the game fish to start to go missing lies in the hands of the customers. What happens when you all of a sudden have a fish that has out grown your tank and most fish stores won't take it, because it won't fit in their tanks? Easy throw it into the local pond. Wrong, most large fish that get tossed into local ponds are way too big to be eaten by local game fish. Also most of the fish that get tossed into ponds are trained onto live food, and the owner could no longer supply the fish with food.
So the populations of these fish can not be controlled and they begin to increase and eat the local game fish. By eating the young and eggs of the game fish, then replacing them with their eggs and young their populations increased. Peacock bass were actually brought to Florida in the 1980's to control the Oscar population that was being released into local waters.
So technically you can't blame the customer for the fish, because they didn't know better. They barely knew anything about the fish until it was too late. Top pet stores should be put through programs to teach their staff and should have brochures on hand for the fish, so that the customer can learn about them.
For one example of what could be considered an invasive species, I direct your attention to the Red Lionfish. The Red Lionfish can be found in coastal waters along the eastern united states, but is a fish native to Australian and Asian waters. Although there have been documented sightings in Florida as early as 1985 (NOAA), the Red Lionfish did not see measurable populations until the 1990's. Although unsure of the exact source of the introduction, the two most common opinions are that they were either intentionally introduced by individuals within the aquarium industry, or possibly the fish were washed out during one of the many hurricanes seen by Florida. Of the three pet chain stores listed in the opening statements, only one was both operating, and located in Florida at this time.
While fish are not exclusive to the categorization of invasive species, we cannot hold corporations exclusively responsible for their introduction into non-native areas. In this current age of easily accessed information, I contest that the burden of responsibility and education belongs to the consumer rather than the company. For example:
A customer walks into a local pet store to buy a constrictor family snake that grows to an adult size of 10 feet. The store representative is highly educated on the topic of snakes, and is capable of answering virtually any question the customer can bring to them. However the customer simply walks in, selects the snake, purchases it, and leaves. What we didn't know, is that same customer decided to get the snake on a whim after seeing one in a movie, and will house it inside an old truck bed tray.
When I purchased my two ball pythons, the girl who assisted me knew a little bit about the snakes, but wasn't an expert by any measure. She did however provide me with a variety of literature, suggested several different books on the subject, and even recommended that I might do some specific research before I make the actual purchase. As a responsible consumer and pet owner, I had already done a great deal of research, had an appropriate habitat prepared, and was able to introduce these pets safely.
In closing, it is my opinion that the consumer has a reasonable responsibility to properly educate and prepare themselves when electing to purchase an exotic pet. The responsibility of the pet store, be it a mom and pop aquarium store or a national chain, is the same.
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