The beach at Cretaquarium on the last day of winter...
March 2nd 2015 Cretaquarium Crete
The Island of Crete has Greece's largest and only modern style marine aquarium. It belongs to HCMR so any comments will be rather subjective and sentimental.
What I have been noticing is a big 'animal welfare' issue surfacing during the last few years and this has begun targeting aquariums and other zoological collections. Of course, Cretaquarium only has fishes and invertebrates (and the odd rehabilitating turtle).
Anyway these are my immediate thoughts after this visit:
- Fishes do feel pain. Big fishes probably may suffer in pens. Perhaps their world is poorer in a tank. Most people can't tell. But I think there is a cause for this localized suffering. When humans see fish - alive and real - they sympathize with these species. If humans begin to understand, they will provide policy and actions for conservation. Humans need to fight for fishes - so they need to know them to do so.
- Fishes are of critical conservation importance and they are especially difficult for people to care for. So I think this justifies captivity in good local-knowledge aquariums. Aquariums help illuminate and sensitize. They also bring out the living character of fishes. (See the grouper's faces in the photos below).
- Some large-sized fishes - in the pics below you may distinguish sharks, rays, meagres...these are impossible for people to appreciate because these fish are now amazingly scarce in the wild. So people see a vanishing heritage in an aquarium.
- You need to experience to "feel" deeply. If you don't feel you cannot love and what you cannot love, you cannot sacrifice for. We need a new generation of nerds and hippies working for conservation. These people are sometimes "born" in aquariums. Nature-lovers and environmentalists "become" when they are affected by scenes in-nature. Aquariums bring them close to the nature of fishes. So close, something clicks....
- Zoological collections are threatened by animal rights perspectives. Animals have rights. Humans have obligations towards them. But its a messy world. (Ugly, and stinking too). So to make it better we need to have real empathy and deeper appreciation. We also have to evaluate the "awareness work" aquariums are doing.
- The fields of conservation psychology and environmental ethics deal with the above issues I am presenting today. Read more on this.
Finally, I believe that fishes are part of human culture and part of a wonderful nature aesthetic that humans must learn to value more. So taking pics of captive fishes (even snap-shots like I do) can convey this innate and deep beauty. At aquariums sometimes you can fall in love...with a fish!
I spent just 15 minutes watching/photographing the fish in the aquarium today - I met with a couple of neat scientist-friends there; I took a walk on the beach next to the Aquarium. Made me happy.