Big hair, overspending, and bad fishkeeping - but you have helped us change all that.
The pet industry was not exactly known for being responsible in the 1970s and the self-indulgent 1980s only made things worse. When we purchased Pet World in 1988, we knew we had a mess to clean up. Wild birds were still being imported from South America and nearly all aquatic fish were wild caught, with less than 10% farm raised. Things were very different back then.
We all know that sometimes species go extinct naturally while most of the time it seems modern man causes the damage. Palm oil plantations, slash and burn agriculture, deforestation, pollution, and overfishing all have wreaked havoc on aquatic wildlife. But from this mess, the aquatic hobby was born, and through the development and expansion of this hobby, we have seen drastic improvements in our industry. With the ongoing support of our customers, we’ve been able to slowly make a difference.
The Banggai Cardinalfish, a small reef fish endemic to the Banggai Islands off of Sulawesi, Indonesia and the Coptodon Bythobates, endemic to the crater Lake Bermin, are good examples. Both are endangered in their home regions and it’s believed the Banggai are extinct in at least one of their original locations. However, we have learned to expertly mimic their natural surroundings, lifestyles, and water chemistries, and have successfully bred each of these fish in captivity. In fact, we have a pair of Coptos that breed consistently! Pet World’s fish team has passionately paired knowledge with caring natures to attain a regimen of growing baby Coptos to full size fish continuously! It’s a small step, but it's something.
This reminds us of a story.
The Boy and the Starfish
A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset and saw a young boy in the distance. As he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water. Time and again he hurled objects into the ocean.
As the man approached even closer, he saw that the boy was picking up starfish who had washed up on the shore. One at a time he was throwing them back into the water. The man asked the boy what he was doing.
"I am throwing these starfish back into the ocean so they don’t die."
Puzzled, the man said, "You can't possibly save them all. There are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can't possibly make a difference."
The boy looked down, frowning for a moment, then picked up another starfish, undeterred, smiling as he threw it back into the sea.
"Well, I made a huge difference to that one!"
During our first few years we felt like we weren’t getting anywhere in the fish industry so in 1993, Tim and Sherry spent two weeks traversing the state of Florida, visiting every fish farm they could find. Since then, we’ve made countless trips to each coast, all the way to South America, to secure responsible suppliers. None of these efforts would be possible without the financial support of our customers. After years of ongoing research, investigative trips, and fact finding missions, we are happy to report that nearly 90% of Pet World’s fish are now farm or hobby raised. All remaining wild fish are caught by certified fisherman who follow safe, environmentally responsible methods to bring in hearty fish that are only in abundance.
Of course, the vast majority of fishing is for human consumption and that industry has a real challenge on their hands. But, as for the pet trade, our suppliers are committed to seeking out the smaller village operations who understand the importance of long term economic growth by only perpetuating the sale of renewable resources. These tiny, local groups are interested in sustainable livelihood for their communities. They depend on our financial support and go to great lengths to maintain good relations with our industry.
We realize our efforts are small on a global scale but huge for an independent pet store in little, old Lawrence, Kansas. Efforts like ours are the reason Pet World sets the industry standard and serves as a role model for other stores to follow. Every effort aimed at conservation of a living, beneficial part of our world’s ecosystem is helpful - no matter what scale. You, our customers, make all this happen. You might think that $30 you spend on fish this week isn’t important but always remember a portion of your money goes to further the responsible fishkeeping hobby. You help us pay out hundreds of training hours and expand our buying power to the point where we can make responsible purchases for you to enjoy in your tank at home.
Maybe we didn’t have much to do with declining hair spray sales, but, with the help of our customers, we’ve fortunately been a big part of an important industry change in the aquarium hobby since the bad ol' days of the 80s. And it’s all thanks to you. Next time you’re in, please take a look at the difference you’ve made!