Collection Point: Solomon Island Collection Station
Why Fishes from the Solomon Islands are so Great
The Solomon Islands are what most people think of when they think of a tropical paradise, but for the marine aquarist, the Solomons are truly Nirvana. Shallow lagoons, intact reefs and a remarkable diversity of species define this island chain northwest of Australia and adjacent to Papua New Guinea. In short, the Solomon Islands have all the basic resources to support a robust and sustainable marine aquarium trade, but what really sets these Islands apart is the aquarium industry infrastructure that exists there. This article looks at a few of the reasons why animals imported from the Solomon Islands make such fantastic aquarium animals.
Compared to the typical Indonesia or Philippine station, the collection station from which Blue Zoo Aquatics receives its Solomon imports is relatively small. Like other smaller stations around the world that are not part of a large aquarium collecting infrastructure, the fishes are collected and brought to the export facility quickly—often on the same day they were collected but always within two to three days. This avoids the fishes being held for weeks in sub-standard conditions either in sea pens, cups, or plastic bags with water changed daily. Most animals are then shipped from the Solomons facility to wholesale facilities such as those in Los Angeles within a week to ten days of collection. When compared to fish being held for a month or more, which is often the norm at the larger stations, the savvy aquarist clearly begins to see the value-added when purchasing Solomon Island animals.
A State-of-the-Art Marine Aquarium Holding and Export Facility
In addition to the efficiency and minimal time between collection and a fish reaching the Blue Zoo Aquatics holding facility here in Southern California, the fact that the Solomon Island facility is truly state of the art makes a huge difference in terms of the fish’s health. The Solomon Island facility is a modern facility with acrylic tanks, U.V. sterilizers, protein skimmers, and everything else you would expect from an up-to-date marine aquarium system. In short, the facility is built and maintained to Western standards, meaning that the fish are not held in concrete vats with compromised flow, as is common in other larger facilities.
In fact, there are three separate systems for fishes at the facility in the Solomon Islands. One system is dedicated to the collectors’ incoming animals. Here the fishes are sorted, graded and accepted as quality. The second system is used to allow the fishes to settle down and become less stressed. During this time, the animals will purge their systems and be conditioned for export. The fishes remain in this second system for a minimum of three days. Finally, the fishes are moved to indoor holding tanks where they are readied for export. This three step process means there is no chance of newly arrived, unpurged fish mistakenly making it into a shipment. Every fish shipped from this facility is fully conditioned, which is more than can be said for some of the larger operations.
Going the Extra Mile for the Health of Marine Aquarium Animals
In addition to the efficiency with which animals are moved from collection to wholesaler (and the fact that all animals are fully conditioned on site), the Solomon Island facility goes the extra mile in many small ways that have a big impact on the animal that eventually ends up in the hobbyist’s aquarium. For example, daily freshwater dips are performed on all clownfishes in the facility to keep them free of clownfish parasites. As a result, almost no clownfishes are lost at the Solomon Island facility. “The fresh water dips really work to keep them clean and parasite free,” says Mark Martin, Director of Marine Ornamental Research at Blue Zoo Aquatics. “I have seen literally thousands upon thousands of clownfishes imported for the hobby, and the ones coming in from this Solomon Island facility are nearly always in the best shape and the most trouble free.”
Excellent Collectors and Export Facility Staff
Of course, as with every other aspect of doing business right, it really comes down to people, and the people working in the Solomons to collect, condition and ship these animals to the States are truly top-notch. Most individuals involved in collection in the Solomon Islands are village-based and get most or all of their income from net-collecting aquarium animals. Typically they work only with a mask, snorkel and net while collecting. These independent collectors usually work in groups of six to ten people with one person in the group having a boat with an outboard engine to transport the fish to the export station. Occasionally collectors will pool their resources and hire a boat for transport. The transport time from the collection location to the export facility rarely exceeds three or four hours.
Professional, Salaried Collectors
In addition to purchasing fish from village collectors, three full-time collectors are employed as salaried staff of the facility. These professional collectors will often head out and camp on a small island for five days at a stretch and collect specific animals that have been requested by the station. The animals they collect are then transported daily back to the facility. In addition to being salaried, the full-time collectors are the best divers available, and they are the only ones that use compressed air while diving. By using a combination of independent collectors and professional, full-time collectors, the shipments from this Solomon Island facility are always well-balanced in terms of diversity.
Animals shipped from the Solomon Islands to wholesalers and then retailers in the United States are some of the healthiest, most reliable animals available in the trade. The reason for this has everything to do with efficiency, state-of-the-art equipment and husbandry practices and well-trained, dedicated collectors and other employees. This isn’t to say that there are not other quality collection stations in the Indo-Pacific from which healthy animals are shipped, but rest assured that when you purchase a Solomon Island animal from Blue Zoo, you are going to get the most value for your money when it comes to animal health and wellbeing, and that is what it is really all about.
For more information about the Solomon Islands as a collection point for the marine aquarium industry, see this article.
Published 10 April 2009. © Blue Zoo Aquatics