An expedition to Florida to support an ongoing research project has resulted in an organized campaign against Moody Gardens and Texas A&M University Galveston with allegations of improper conduct by our professional staff. We take these allegations very seriously and wish to address these public comments and correct misinformation that has been presented as fact.
“Claims that Moody Gardens has collected thousands of fish from the Blue Heron Bridge dive site in Florida are misinformed and untrue,” said Moody Gardens CEO John Zendt, who added Moody Gardens worked with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to acquire the necessary permits for this limited list of species and specimens and abide by all department regulations to protect Florida’s natural resources. “We collected a total of 50 fish and 12 invertebrates over a seven-day period and were nothing if not respectful of the environment we were allowed to visit. I am very excited to have the privilege to share these wonderful species with our visitors.”
We have been working with several public aquariums and university research programs including Texas A&M University Galveston to improve sustainability within our living collections for the past three years. Captive breeding in marine fish is an important initiative within the Association of Zoo and Aquarium (AZA) community and we have been focused on several species of Blennies in its work. The biologists were in Florida to collect broodstock for these breeding efforts for those species with which there has been success and a few others that show promise. Moody Gardens limited its collecting efforts to species that do well in human care and can help us tell the story to our visitors of zoos and aquariums helping to save species.
“There has been a call for Moody Gardens to release the fish obtained at Blue Heron Bridge,” said Animal Husbandry Manager Greg Whittaker. “Given the specimens were housed in common water systems with other animals that could pose risks for introducing novel pathogens, reintroduction would be irresponsible. It would also be impossible to determine exact fish and invertebrates were sourced at Blue Heron Bridge versus the other collection sites. Whittaker added “We applaud the environmental protectionism that these local advocates are showing as it aligns squarely with our mission. I also want to assure all of those who have contacted us that we have not removed all of any species from any one location.”
Their experienced collection team did so at three collecting sites with two-thirds of the fish coming from the Blue Heron Bridge and the Blue Heron Bridge Snorkel Trail and the other third collected from the Fort Pierce Marina Dock. All collections averaged one hour and were targeted and deliberate using gear to match the needs and avoid by catch or environmental disruption. On two separate occasions FWC agents were called to inspect the operations and deemed the Moody Gardens team was in full compliance. One specimen died in transport to Galveston, Texas, but all others are doing well in quarantine systems since arrival Sunday evening.