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View Full Version : is it really possible to be ethical in the fish business


ml708
11/02/2014, 03:23 PM
first off, many people buy on impulse or treat their fish as replaceable ornaments, as a fad, or to show off.

this generates more revenue for fish shops as they get to sell more fish as fish start to die and people buy them again.

if everyone could keep fish well, they would have a limited amount of space to keep more fish.

and if one is a fish shop owner, one is concerned about turning over fish rapidly to generate profits.

accordsirh22
11/02/2014, 04:22 PM
you clearly do not have a good understanding of how a shop can run. you don't only sell fish. it is in your best interest for the customers to not kill fish and be successful.

syrinx
11/02/2014, 05:51 PM
agreed. I never worried about turnover. You stock some fish for turnover- and they are starter fish like tetras and danios, damsels and clowns- but overall I would get what I liked and what people were into- and that created sufficient turns. Everyone must remember that ethical is a personal definition-things you think are ethical others may not- including keeping fish. And no one is correct to anyone else but themselves.

ml708
11/02/2014, 10:58 PM
you clearly do not have a good understanding of how a shop can run. you don't only sell fish. it is in your best interest for the customers to not kill fish and be successful.

I do understand that some shops also do tank setup and maintenance as well as carry some other items such as test kits, food etc.

But how do these shops generate enough income?

FinzAquatics
11/03/2014, 12:11 AM
The markup on fish is quite high for most retail shops. Upwards of 300% for livestock.

ml708
11/03/2014, 12:14 AM
The markup on fish is quite high for most retail shops. Upwards of 300% for livestock.

agreed, but thats due to freight costs, mortality, rent and utilities so I can understand. I doubt most fish shops are there to rip people off haha

billsreef
11/03/2014, 05:14 AM
When it comes to fish turnover, I always found it better to have my customers educated to the point of not constantly loosing and replacing their fish. Those customers stay in the hobby, come in the shop on weekly basis and often keep buying more tanks, larger tanks, and grow their hobby. The ones that are constantly loosing and replacing fish just drop out of the hobby after a year or two...not really good for business.

The markup on fish is quite high for most retail shops. Upwards of 300% for livestock.

Keep in mind, just how much money does a shop make with a 300% markup on something like a &1.79 swordtail after you take out shipping, electric, rent, food, staff, etc. The high dollar marine fish are typically not marked up much more than dry goods...and certainly cost more to have in the store.

ml708
11/03/2014, 06:06 AM
When it comes to fish turnover, I always found it better to have my customers educated to the point of not constantly loosing and replacing their fish. Those customers stay in the hobby, come in the shop on weekly basis and often keep buying more tanks, larger tanks, and grow their hobby. The ones that are constantly loosing and replacing fish just drop out of the hobby after a year or two...not really good for business.



Keep in mind, just how much money does a shop make with a 300% markup on something like a &1.79 swordtail after you take out shipping, electric, rent, food, staff, etc. The high dollar marine fish are typically not marked up much more than dry goods...and certainly cost more to have in the store.

I hope that is so, and if that works for your business model, thats great!

However some shops sell mainly fish and very little dry goods due to different marketing focus. These are the ones I worry about.

Actually where I'm from, swordtails sell for around 2 cents each, and thats at the fish store where they are feeders. Suppliers get them in even cheaper! So 1.79 in the US is a huge increase in price.

I've been lucky enough to be privy to price lists of fish like bandits (rather high dollar imo) and the mark up is 400% where I'm at. But I can't blame the shops. They have to cover costs at the end of the day.

power boat jim
11/03/2014, 07:44 AM
What exactly are you asking, are you talking about ethical treatment of animals or ethical treatment of customers?

tilo
11/03/2014, 07:54 AM
I follow one thing. Be as truthful and honest as you can to customers and never be afraid to tell them no.

Doing so teaches them what they can't and can have, raises life expectancy of fish, keeps people in the hobby (main goal). Not selling fish everyday to the same person.

ml708
11/03/2014, 11:09 AM
What exactly are you asking, are you talking about ethical treatment of animals or ethical treatment of customers?

I believe that customers can be treated ethically while maintaining a healthy profit at the same time. Willing buyer willing seller, as long as you are selling fish that you get from reliable sources barring events outside your control and goods that you know will work to the best of your ability.

Its about ethical treatment of the animals, in that many end up sold to irresponsible owners (which is most fish keepers imo, those who end up on rc and actually care to find out about their animals are the minority).

Eric Boerner
11/03/2014, 06:34 PM
Supply and demand. If hobbyists aren't demanding strictly aquacultured ornamentals, then LFS' will continue to stock the lower priced and easier to get wild trade items.

Since only around 10% of hobbyists actually understand they can request aquacultured fish and coral from the LFS', the demand just isn't there. Although we are definitely eons ahead of where we were 10 years ago.

What needs to happen is one of these yahoo Animal Planet aquarium shows needs to grow a pair and actually stand for what they "say" they preach. Only supply their clients with sustainable AC fish/coral and make a huge deal about it on TV. They do not, because they don't practice what they preach.

In 10 years, I'd like to see strictly AC frags and colonies sitting in LFS' at the very least. Fish will be more of a mountain to climb. It's hard to tell someone you can't import "live" Tangs into the continental US, when you can walk into an islander's farmer market and pick up a dozen for $2.

ml708
11/03/2014, 11:49 PM
Supply and demand. If hobbyists aren't demanding strictly aquacultured ornamentals, then LFS' will continue to stock the lower priced and easier to get wild trade items.

Since only around 10% of hobbyists actually understand they can request aquacultured fish and coral from the LFS', the demand just isn't there. Although we are definitely eons ahead of where we were 10 years ago.

What needs to happen is one of these yahoo Animal Planet aquarium shows needs to grow a pair and actually stand for what they "say" they preach. Only supply their clients with sustainable AC fish/coral and make a huge deal about it on TV. They do not, because they don't practice what they preach.

In 10 years, I'd like to see strictly AC frags and colonies sitting in LFS' at the very least. Fish will be more of a mountain to climb. It's hard to tell someone you can't import "live" Tangs into the continental US, when you can walk into an islander's farmer market and pick up a dozen for $2.

yes, one thing I would like to see is a stockist of fish that are all aquacultured. Currently only a few species are aquacultured (but the number is increasing).

As a fish shop owner, why would one pay a premium for these fish when consumers want to pay the lowest price possible? and its also much more economical to order from the suppliers who have the longest stocklists, and to get from as few suppliers as possible to cut costs.

billsreef
11/04/2014, 05:06 AM
As a fish shop owner, why would one pay a premium for these fish when consumers want to pay the lowest price possible?

Simple, mortality are significantly lower on the aquacultured fish. Both DOA and longer term in shop. You also get some satisifaction when customers come in telling you "X" shops fish always die, and yours always live, so they are only going to buy your fish ;)

ml708
11/04/2014, 05:11 AM
Simple, mortality are significantly lower on the aquacultured fish. Both DOA and longer term in shop. You also get some satisifaction when customers come in telling you "X" shops fish always die, and yours always live, so they are only going to buy your fish ;)

thats if they are willing to pay the premium for these fish in the first place! many come into the hobby not realising how much it costs to sustain it.

I do agree. I have a captive bred scribble which is extremely hardy

billsreef
11/04/2014, 05:24 AM
thats if they are willing to pay the premium for these fish in the first place!

True, for both some LFS owners and the customers. I've hard time convincing some LFS owners I've worked for that aquacultured were actually the better deal, simply because they couldn't look past the check they had to cut to see that the 90% + survival rate was actually a profit maker. With customers, you can put a tank of aquacultured clowns next to a tank of wild caught, explain the reasons the aquacultured were better, and many would simply buy the cheaper wild caught...several times over. I've actually done that experiment at one LFS when they let me bring in the aquacultured...also proved my point that the increased profit on the aquacultured was worth buying just the aquacultured when available for a given species.

ml708
11/04/2014, 05:58 AM
True, for both some LFS owners and the customers. I've hard time convincing some LFS owners I've worked for that aquacultured were actually the better deal, simply because they couldn't look past the check they had to cut to see that the 90% + survival rate was actually a profit maker. With customers, you can put a tank of aquacultured clowns next to a tank of wild caught, explain the reasons the aquacultured were better, and many would simply buy the cheaper wild caught...several times over. I've actually done that experiment at one LFS when they let me bring in the aquacultured...also proved my point that the increased profit on the aquacultured was worth buying just the aquacultured when available for a given species.

thats the sad truth and also the reason why I feel its very hard for this hobby to be sustainable :(

Eric Boerner
11/04/2014, 01:30 PM
As a fish shop owner, why would one pay a premium for these fish when consumers want to pay the lowest price possible? and its also much more economical to order from the suppliers who have the longest stocklists, and to get from as few suppliers as possible to cut costs.

I absolutely have to call BS here. Your argument is valid for 'some' fish, but not for coral, not at all.

I understand the need to make your business viable. But I also know for a fact that the 'poor' LFS' are also ripping the aquaculture business off blindly, almost criminally. Yes, ORA aquacultured pieces come at a premium because they can only grow so many in a month. But I also know that regionally, in almost every corner of the US, there is viable and thriving homebased AC market. When someone comes into your LFS and says, "Hey, I want to supply you with my ORA cultured frags that I grew, at half the cost you'd pay them", typically the answer is, "Sure, for store credit at 10% of what I'll sell it for." There is no way you'd tell your ORA supplier that. The homebased AC business then has no viable means of selling locally, so they EBay, or do internet sales. The AC market is huge and thriving, but LFS' are missing the mark completely because of greed.

ml708
11/04/2014, 01:42 PM
I absolutely have to call BS here. Your argument is valid for 'some' fish, but not for coral, not at all.

I understand the need to make your business viable. But I also know for a fact that the 'poor' LFS' are also ripping the aquaculture business off blindly, almost criminally. Yes, ORA aquacultured pieces come at a premium because they can only grow so many in a month. But I also know that regionally, in almost every corner of the US, there is viable and thriving homebased AC market. When someone comes into your LFS and says, "Hey, I want to supply you with my ORA cultured frags that I grew, at half the cost you'd pay them", typically the answer is, "Sure, for store credit at 10% of what I'll sell it for." There is no way you'd tell your ORA supplier that. The homebased AC business then has no viable means of selling locally, so they EBay, or do internet sales. The AC market is huge and thriving, but LFS' are missing the mark completely because of greed.

I would agree partially with your statement on corals, as many exotic frags are propagated via AC. This is a step in the right direction and indeed many stores which sell corals engage in this themselves as it does not require much space to grow SPS frags for example. And most importantly, these frags are rather affordable. Perhaps in the future, we might become totally self sustainable wrt SPS.

Hopefully the day can come sooner when we are self sustainable on fish too. And I hope that day comes sooner enough but with the cost of larval culture vs ease and cost of getting wild fish, I am not entirely optimistic at the moment.

Eric Boerner
11/04/2014, 01:56 PM
Hopefully the day can come sooner when we are self sustainable on fish too. And I hope that day comes sooner enough but with the cost of larval culture vs ease and cost of getting wild fish, I am not entirely optimistic at the moment.

Again, I totally disagree with you on the cost of AC fish vs. Wild.

The clownfish market is a prime example. The cost to purchase a box lot of plain ORA Ocellaris is far less than a box lot of wild caught. Big name pet stores (PetCo) no longer bring in anything but ORA clowns. The quanitity and quality of those fish are far superior to wild sources. Plus the store price reflects that they are plentiful.

The only limiting factor for AC fish is the variety. ORA is doing an amazing job of bringing new species of highly desired ornamental fish into the AC market.

And again, if a local clownfish breeder wanted to be a constant supply of fish, the LFS would rip them off...

ml708
11/04/2014, 02:16 PM
Again, I totally disagree with you on the cost of AC fish vs. Wild.

The clownfish market is a prime example. The cost to purchase a box lot of plain ORA Ocellaris is far less than a box lot of wild caught. Big name pet stores (PetCo) no longer bring in anything but ORA clowns. The quanitity and quality of those fish are far superior to wild sources. Plus the store price reflects that they are plentiful.

The only limiting factor for AC fish is the variety. ORA is doing an amazing job of bringing new species of highly desired ornamental fish into the AC market.

And again, if a local clownfish breeder wanted to be a constant supply of fish, the LFS would rip them off...

clowns are one of those fish which have been bred for quite awhile, and can be bred in a steady supply. there are even home breeders and a high school in japan that breeds clownfish so yes, it can be done.

If its indeed the case that ORA clowns are cheaper than wild caught, that would be a fantastic thing. I can't comment on this as I am not familiar with the US market.

In indonesia and the philippines, there are some AC facilities but mainly they are selling wild caught fish. I would love to see them convert more towards AC and attempt breeding (they would be able to try given the variety of ornamental species locally available). If it is indeed more profitable I don't see why they haven't started en masse.

Its still a fact that most fish we see in aquariums are wild caught.

billsreef
11/04/2014, 06:38 PM
The clownfish market is a prime example. The cost to purchase a box lot of plain ORA Ocellaris is far less than a box lot of wild caught.

I"ll admit it's been a few years since I got completely out of the trade and ordered from ORA, but the price of ORA Ocellaris was double that of wild caught Ocellaris before shipping. ORA shipping at the time was FedEx overnight, vs. air freight from the supplier I used for wild caught fish and inverts....and FedEx overnight was and still is considerably more expensive than air freight.

BTW, due to minimum orders and the need for variety, it often isn't in the LFS interest to be buying much stock from hobbyist. If your not buying enough bread and butter clownfish from ORA, your not getting to buy the other goodies...unless they have loosened up on their minimums and requirements to buy X $ worth of clowns before you can order the goodies like corals and clams.

Eric Boerner
11/05/2014, 01:11 PM
I've seen some small coral AC businesses in LA that are on par with ORA's size and output, many surpass ORA with coral variety. They struggle to get their product into the largest LFS reefing market in the world. Not because their product has problems, it's because they're not set up as a wholesale distributor. They can't make that leap until they have the market stream already established with LFS'. That cannot happen, because the LFS in the area are more than willing to take AC frags for pennies to the dollar or frag wild colonies themselves. It's a viscous short-sighted cycle that LFS' continue to propagate.

...many exotic frags are propagated via AC. This is a step in the right direction and indeed many stores which sell corals engage in this themselves as it does not require much space to grow SPS frags for example...

Unfortunately, this is also an unethical practice that many LFS' continue to employ. They order their box allotment of coral from Fiji/Bali/Australia. It comes in with 12 run-of-the mill colonies, and 6 super sweet colonies. Those super sweet colonies get hacked up into frags, labeled with a designer name, then tacked on with "Aquacultured Frag". The LFS makes a 500% profit on that one colony, effectively paying for the entire box allotment. The 12 run-of-the-mill colonies may die off, sit on shelves for months, or wind up as rubble rock. We the consumer feel like were buying a sustainable sourced frag, when in reality were allowing more colonies to be ripped from the wild without realizing it.

I used to call out LFS' in LA that did this, but the practice is chronic with every retail outlet on the net doing it. I've walked in on one of the largest frag distributors cutting up a wild aussie SPS. I asked why they wouldn't sell it as a colony. The answer: "I'd never be able to sell it for $1,200 as a whole colony. If I frag it 24 times, I can sell each frag for $60 and people will buy them". In my head I already know that a single box lot of 18 coral from Australia is $1,400 delivered to your door. Just that single colony is a 100% profit from the box cost. There is another 17 colonies worth of frags in there too.

Why on earth would an LFS NOT hack and sell? The profits are out of this world bringing in wild colonies.

We were developing guidelines about 10 years ago to present to MACNA on certifying AC frags that LFS sold. An unbiased, non-profit organisation would be the certifying body if an LFS wanted to carry certified sustainable sourced frags. I personally got a massive amount of flack over that, stating that it would be a vehicle to make money from LFS' and increase the costs of corals. That it would effectively force LFS' into buying more wild colonies. IE. it was never embraced, because it would tear into their profit.

ml708
11/05/2014, 01:46 PM
I've seen some small coral AC businesses in LA that are on par with ORA's size and output, many surpass ORA with coral variety. They struggle to get their product into the largest LFS reefing market in the world. Not because their product has problems, it's because they're not set up as a wholesale distributor. They can't make that leap until they have the market stream already established with LFS'. That cannot happen, because the LFS in the area are more than willing to take AC frags for pennies to the dollar or frag wild colonies themselves. It's a viscous short-sighted cycle that LFS' continue to propagate.



Unfortunately, this is also an unethical practice that many LFS' continue to employ. They order their box allotment of coral from Fiji/Bali/Australia. It comes in with 12 run-of-the mill colonies, and 6 super sweet colonies. Those super sweet colonies get hacked up into frags, labeled with a designer name, then tacked on with "Aquacultured Frag". The LFS makes a 500% profit on that one colony, effectively paying for the entire box allotment. The 12 run-of-the-mill colonies may die off, sit on shelves for months, or wind up as rubble rock. We the consumer feel like were buying a sustainable sourced frag, when in reality were allowing more colonies to be ripped from the wild without realizing it.

I used to call out LFS' in LA that did this, but the practice is chronic with every retail outlet on the net doing it. I've walked in on one of the largest frag distributors cutting up a wild aussie SPS. I asked why they wouldn't sell it as a colony. The answer: "I'd never be able to sell it for $1,200 as a whole colony. If I frag it 24 times, I can sell each frag for $60 and people will buy them". In my head I already know that a single box lot of 18 coral from Australia is $1,400 delivered to your door. Just that single colony is a 100% profit from the box cost. There is another 17 colonies worth of frags in there too.

Why on earth would an LFS NOT hack and sell? The profits are out of this world bringing in wild colonies.

We were developing guidelines about 10 years ago to present to MACNA on certifying AC frags that LFS sold. An unbiased, non-profit organisation would be the certifying body if an LFS wanted to carry certified sustainable sourced frags. I personally got a massive amount of flack over that, stating that it would be a vehicle to make money from LFS' and increase the costs of corals. That it would effectively force LFS' into buying more wild colonies. IE. it was never embraced, because it would tear into their profit.

I agree with you on every point, but unless a critical mass is reached in terms of supply, the big names will never get the small cultured frags (not to mention the much cheaper cost of fragging them themselves). Its kind of like a dog chasing its own tail. Getting corals to be certified will also add to their cost for sure. Short of outright banning the sale of wild corals and only allowing the sale of truly aquacultured corals, I don't see a solution to this very unfortunate problem.

I used to think that captive bred or aquacultured livestock would be all the rage, but honestly got very disappointed with the reception. People just seem to not bother and just pay for whatever is cheapest. Some suppliers where I'm at have actually given up selling them, or drastically cut down on their range. It took me ages to even convince them to bring in certain aquacultured fish.

billsreef
11/05/2014, 04:43 PM
It's always interesting to look at statistics of who's importing wild colonies, and the names at the top of the list are well known "aquacultured" coral suppliers.