While aquariums can be beautiful dream harvesters and profound educational tools, there is a darker side to aquariums, particularly on the administrative level, where some officials illegally trade, purchase and sell marine animals. In many ways, it is like a marine black market. Many aquariums across the country are desperate for that unique marine attraction, something that will bring in customers and money. After all, it is a money-driven world. Desperation is, unfortunately, an accepted fact. As a result, many question the ethics of some aquarists. Is it really about the animals, or is it about the almighty dollar? In Oregon, the co-owner of Portland Aquarium is in hot water.
In the article, “Portland Aquarium co-owner pleads not guilty to illegally harvesting marine animals,” Victoria Edwards of The Oregonian writes, “Ammon Covino, who owns the aquarium south of Milwaukie with his brother, was arrested in Boise in February and is accused to buying six marine animals for about $6,300 without proper permits and transporting them to the Idaho Aquarium.” The marine animals in question were four nurse sharks. Interestingly enough, Covino also runs the Idaho Aquarium. I guess you can say it was like insider trading.
The nurse shark is an intriguing animal, associated more so with tropical and subtropical waters. It is an inshore and nocturnal bottom-dwelling shark. Although not often fished, many hold its leather in high regard. The animal is a big part of the aquarium trade, as was the case with Covino.
Initially released on a $100,000 bond, a federal judge brought Covino back into custody. It seems that Covino attempted to destroy information pertinent to the case. If convicted, Covino may face up to five years in prison. Were those nurse sharks worth it? These marine animals are not commodities. Nevertheless, Covino’s situation is a black eye to aquarists everywhere.
For more information on the pending case, you can Victoria’s article here.
*Image courtesy of Dr. Mathew Gilligan