Blue Zoo Supports Local Aquarium Clubs
Sponsorship of FragStock Supports Education and Conservation
Chris Bueschel has been involved with the Southern Colorado Marine Aquarist Society (SCMAS) since the early days. He was the Club’s vice president in 2007 and the president in 2008. He currently handles all PR for SCMAS, and he was kind enough to take the time to talk with us a little about the Society, the upcoming FragStock 2009 event which Blue Zoo is sponsoring, and the importance of being involved in the activities of local marine aquarist societies like SCMAS.
A Marine Aquarist Society is Born
SCMAS officially started in Colorado Springs and, as of 2008, became an LLC. “In the early days,” Chris explained, “it was just a handful of guys meeting up in a club member’s house and eating some food. Now we put on mid-scale events like FragStock and have a very well developed and visited website.” In short, SCMAS has grown very quickly and is now serving a large number of reefers in Colorado.
FragStock began in a club member’s garage three years ago, according to Chris. “We had probably 100 people in there; it was packed,” he recalls. “Kris Wray [now the Collector’s Choice Livestock Manager at Blue Zoo Aquatics] attended the first FragStock event and gave a presentation on Fiji coral collecting. He brought some corals with him and did a fragging demo as well.”
Blue Zoo Aquatics Sponsoring FragStock 2009
Kris will be returning to this year’s event—which promises to be the largest collection of corals and frags ever assembled in Colorado—on October 10, 2009 at the Downtown Denver Aquarium in Denver. He will be representing Blue Zoo Aquatics, which is a sponsor of this year’s event.
“After being a guest speaker and Invited vendor to one of the first SCMAS conferences, I am ecstatic to see the SCMAS not only grow in terms of membership, but also, most importantly, in terms of the way it is helping to spread knowledge of our hobby across the nation. Like we love to say here at Blue Zoo: a knowledgeable hobbyist is a successful aquarist.”
This will be the first year in FragStocks three-year history, that Blue Zoo Aquatics will be a sponsor. “We are pleased to sponsor this year’s event,” says Mark Martin, director of marine ornamental research and co-founder of Blue Zoo Aquatics. “We believe strongly in the importance of local events like this and the marine aquarist societies that put them on. We are at such an important crossroads in the hobby, and the more discussion and education about the hobby and reef conservation that takes place the better. Local societies are a great place for this to happen, and we want to do whatever we can to support them.”
The Role of Aquarists Societies in the Marine Aquarium Industry
As Mark says, educating members about the hobby, the species and reef conservation is one of the most valuable things a local society or club can do. SCMAS, like many like-organizations, is doing an excellent job in this area, especially through putting on events such as FragStock.
In terms of education, FragStock will feature Boston Aqua Farms as a vendor, which will, according to Chris, help to further promote the event’s educational mission. “Boston Aqua Farms produces mounts, glue and cutting tools exclusively for propagating corals, and attendees can talk with the farmers, learn more about growing corals and in general walk away learning something about the corals they never got from the online forum. When it comes to education,” Chris says, “there is nothing like talking to an expert in person versus reading about them online.”
When it comes to educating aquarists about reef conservation, Chris points out that the location of FragStock is a big deal in and of itself. “Having it at the public aquarium speaks a lot to our committment to conservation,” he says. “We have negotiated a super low rate for FragStock attendees to tour the aquarium and learn a lot about conservation, as the aquarium really states that point to all the visitors.” In addition, SCMAS is focusing on commercial vendors that raise corals in their own systems. “Most of the vendors at FragStock will have tank raised corals exclusively.” Tank-raised corals occupy an important place in the hobby, as they are easier for novice reefers to care for, and they don’t deplete natural populations for species of coral that are in trouble.
Cultured Versus Wild Collected Corals
Chris points out that an event like FragStock, or even just a regular club meeting, may be the incentive to get someone new into coral propagation. Like many in the industry, Chris believes the availability of wild-collected coral will decrease in coming years. “I see the future of the reef hobby in our hands,” he says. “I’m talking about the industry leaders, as well as the guy with a 10 gallon propagation system in a closet…. I think maricultured and aquacultured corals will be 100% of what is in our tanks. [Cultured coral will be all] we are able to obtain sometime in the future—I don’t know when, but I can’t see us being able to take wild corals forever—at least not all species anyway.”
Kris at Blue Zoo agrees with Chris’ comments about the importance of aquaculture and mariculture when it comes to coral and the marine aquarium industry, although he also sees wild collection as remaining important.
“At the Collector’s Choice Store at Blue Zoo,” Kris says, “we sell both cultured and wild-collected corals, not only because it is a part of our business model, but also because it fits in with Blue Zoo’s overall philosophy.”
Kris explains that while Blue Zoo is lucky to work with some of the best aquaculture and mariculture facilities in the world, the company has also partnered with first-rate collectors who are committed to sustainable collection. “Wild collected corals, when collected sustainably, make certain species and specimens available that simply are not available as cultured corals. Wild collected corals also play a critical role in building up brood stocks for future propagation. Finally, supporting local collectors in developing island nations can have a dramatic socio-economic impact that, ultimately, supports reef conservation.”
Important Saltwater Aquarium Hobby Partnerships
The bottom line is that partnerships between marine aquarium businesses like Blue Zoo Aquatics and aquarists clubs and societies like SCMAS are good for the individual hobbyist and the hobby at large. That is why Blue Zoo is pleased to be a sponsor of FragStock 2009. “Events like this,” says Kris, “are a fantastic way to learn innovative and responsible ways to frag, grow and ethically market animals within our industry. I strongly advise every saltwater aquarist to walk, drive, or fly into downtown Denver Oct. 10th!”
Chris couldn’t agree more. “The reef enthusiasts in Colorado and neighboring states can help so much by attending this and all other frag swaps and club events,” says Chris. “We show the industry leaders the direction to go by attending these events and giving them feedback in person, which really does help them know what direction to go with product development, coral farming and even book writing!”