Sea Life KC Aquarium joining efforts to end cyanide fishing - KCTV5 News

Sea Life KC Aquarium joining efforts to end cyanide fishing

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(Photo courtesy of James Cervino, Ph.D. and Fish Channel) (Photo courtesy of James Cervino, Ph.D. and Fish Channel)

The Sea Life Kansas City Aquarium is joining a new effort to end a poisonous and destructive form of fishing called cyanide fishing.

There is a new test that can pinpoint which fishermen are using the poison to catch fish, a practice that could destroy the environment.

A cyanide fisherman will dive to a coral reef and spray or pour the poison on the reef, stunning or paralyzing all of the fish that are exposed to it. A marine biologist at Sea Life Kansas City said the cyanide kills more than fish.

"It's my responsibility to manage the staff that oversea the care of the fish to make sure they are healthy," said Display Curator Aaron Sprowl.

He said many of the fish captured in the ocean don't have much of a chance due to destructive fishing practices.

"The fisherman themselves are boys 11 to 12 years old diving into these coral reefs spraying the cyanide out. They are swimming through it themselves and exposing themselves to cyanide," Sprowl said.

The fish will be stunned or shocked and then collected with a net. In turn, the coral reef is destroyed. The practice allows fishermen to catch more fish, but it also kills about 80 to 100 fish in each batch.

"The fish are used in the ornamental fishing industry such as your home aquariums. Public aquariums such as us also use the fish. A lot of the fish are used for human consumption as well," Sprowl said.

He said any new fish headed to 49 Sea Life Aquariums across the world will now be tested for cyanide poisoning at Portugal's University of Aveiro.

"The test involves taking a fish that's exposed to cyanide, putting it in fresh seawater and generally, once waste has passed from the fish, we can do a sample of that water and detect a byproduct of cyanide poisoning to see if these fish have been exposed to cyanide," Sprowl said.

For the first six month of the program, if a fish tests positive, Sea Life employees will contact their wholesaler.

"They can track that fish down to the suppliers who will in turn track that fish down to the fisherman and hopefully they will stop using the fisherman or encourage these fishermen to use other measures to collect fish," Sprowl said.

He said the goal is not to put fishermen out of business, but instead encourage practices that aren't destructive.

If within that time frame Sea Life is not satisfied with the results, they will drop the supplier, publish their findings and encourage other aquariums to follow suit.

"Basically it is destroying the environment. Cyanide is a very bad poison," Sprowl said.

He said destructive fishing practices have already destroyed about 20 percent of the earth's coral reefs. If cyanide fishing continues, it's estimated that another 25 percent are in danger of being destroyed.

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