recaps of the top 'ask me anything' interviews from reddit and more...
Iama scuba diver that catches fish for aquariums AMA

I am a scuba diver in a very small field that catches fish for home aquariums, the actual big aquarium, and universities.

Ask me anything

December 29th 2019
interview date

1) Where does most of your scuba diving take place? 2) Scariest encounter in the depths below. 3) What is your personal aquarium looking like? 4) How in the hell did you get this job?

Cheers and safe diving!


I catch fish out here in Hawaii. I catch fish at random reefs, and we don't go to the same reef for 3-6 months. Kind of like farming, you can't over harvest and have to let things regrow! We don't go to any tourist attractions either, kind of go off the grid.

Scariest encounter was probably my first time catching reef fish. I've got 3000-5000 dives over the past 15 years of diving, so I'm not new to diving. Never ran out of air ever, but my first time catching fish I didn't realize all the stuff I had to carry caused so much drag that I got back up to the boat with probably less than 10 breaths of air left in my tank. Other than that, probably being circled by 6 bull sharks while I was spearfishing for food, and having to poke them with my spear gun because they where coming after my fish on my hip... that's probably the scariest since I had to continually fend off sharks from all angles and try to make it to the surface in one piece!!

I don't have a personal aquarium because it's too much work, time, and money. My personal aquarium is the ocean!

There are only about 20-25 people that collect fish across all the islands in Hawaii, which has just shy of 1.5 million in population.

I randomly got the job by looking on Craigslist. It wasn't advertised as a reef fish catching job, some guy just wanted a dive buddy. After he came to find out that I have a Marine Biology degree, experience spearfishing, boat captains license, and so many dives and could identify tons of fish he offered me the job. There are only 3 of us, and we make up 3 of 10 people doing it on my island. It's a very specialized job, and take a lot of skill and practice to get good at it.

People don't realize fish are FAST! Underwater, we're very slow. You can't chase down or out swim a fish, so it takes trickery and patience!


How is Climate Change impacting the reefs in Hawaii? I went for a sub dive a few years back and the coral was mostly white and dead. A few diving spots looked okay minus the people impact.


I've seen reefs that are just dead. I've been diving for 15 years, most if which have been lately... but I've seen the damage and seen the destruction! Many reefs here are bleached (coral bleaching) and dead... to be honest, the earth and oceans are dying!!




Haha I don't know! Who is your son and what does he do??


What is the capital of Kazakhstan?


Nur-Sultan -- yes I have Google university on my side. That's a super random question to ask... why??


Why isn't raising fish in an aquarium setting done over catching wild fish? It's akin to grabbing wild animals out of their habitat to put in zoos.


They are trying to raise fish in aquariums, but it is very difficult and expensive. I would say about 90% of fish in aquariums are taken from the wild.

The thing is, fish breed like wildfire kinda similar to insects. One fish can have tons and tons of babies. That doesnt hold true for mammals or larger wildlife which only have a few offspring.

The fish don't know they are in a tank, and honestly have a more stress free life since there are no predators chasing them daily!

We catch wild fish sustainably, and never over harvest one area. People always think we are rapeing the ocean, however that's not the case at all!


What is the biggest animal you've ever caught, and was it hard to do?


Hmmm I'd probably say a big southern brown stingray! I don't catch sharks, those are caught for aquariums by hook and line.

And yes, catching a big stingray (I'm talking like much bigger than a car tire) is very difficult. Mainly it's difficult because they are pretty much solid muscle, and go crazy with their tail/barb when trapped.

Other than that, catching stonefish and lionfish are not the biggest catches, but by far more dangerous due to their venom in my opinion. Yes I have been hit by both, and I wouldn't wish that upon my worst enemy!! I cringe reliving those events in my mind!


Pay grade?


Depends how good you are and how lucky you are finding certain fish. Pay is as little as $1-$2 per fish, but certain fish go for $100-$200. Depending on the day and number of dives I do, I can make $50-$300+ per day.


Do you get backlash when you tell people your profession due to Nemo's popularity?


Yep I certainly do!! However, I try to educate them and explain that what I do is environmentally conscious and we're not destroying the ocean. If you're looking for the imposters destroying the ocean, blame the commercial fishing industry and send their lack of regulation!!!


I'm a certified diver from the Caribbean, and some years ago, there was a hurricane or something up north by the United states that drove all of the lion fish into our waters. They're an invasive species with no local predators to keep their population in check, so they asked me and a couple of others to hunt down the fish so that they didn't completely obliterate our local fauna. My question is if something of the sort has ever happened to you?


Yes, I used to live in the Carribean... I shoot every single one I see if not collecting it, which is very rare and by request! I used to feed them to sharks and eels, trying to get them to hunt them!! Even had a snapper take one off my spear when I wasn't looking one time... that was funny/interesting!!


What is the maximum depth you can operate at and what procedure do you follow to get there? Do you use Rebreather and/or Trimix? Do you use decompression tables?


We catch fish anywhere from 30ft to 100ft (max depth probably around +130ftish). We don't use rebreathers, but that's where the super rare fish are! I just don't have $20k laying around for the equipment, and most people don't want the super rare fish anyway to be honest!!

Of course we use decompression tables and dive computers! I don't follow the tables though, because my dive computer is much more accurate!

We don't dive Trimix either, no need for that with there depth we're at. We do dive high blend Nitrox exclusively though, which does just fine extending our bottom time and making things more safe!!


In diving classes, they teach us to respect and let the environment be. Do you find that you are using your powers for the wrong side?


Never killed a fish! We let them decompress before taking them up. We keep them in fresh saltwater/sea water in tubs until they make it to the aquarium. Reef fish can easily live in a tub for 3+ hours!


Are you collecting corals as well?


No, not currently because that WILL f'up the reef! I would like to break off fragments and grow it and replant it to better our reefs though!!


(Avid Reef keeper and scuba diver here). Didn’t Hawaii recently ban the capture and export of ornamental fish? Do you need a license for your work? Also a side note: Anyone who has been keeping reef aquariums long enough knows that even several degrees fluctuation in water temperature is not critical for any of the major SPS or LPS corals. Studies of coral bleaching events are pointing towards water contaminants as the primary cause, with suntan lotions being the prime suspect in littoral waters.

The lion fish problem in the Caribbean was caused by aquarium hobbyists releasing their unwanted lion fish into the wild. Lion fish are native to the Pacific, not Atlantic waters.


You are correct! Suntan lotions are very bad for our oceans! While global warming is happening, contaminates in there water are also killing our reefs!

Honestly, no one know the true answer how the lionfish got into the gulf, east coast, and the Carribean. You're guess is probably right. Dumbasses dumped them in the water!!


Do you set traps? & I saw a post about this one guy who goes down for corals, brings them up to be fragmented, and then he reattaches the frags to secure places when he goes back down in the area. He's been doing it for years and it had a very positive impact on the habitats. Do you think taking time, like 20-30 mins, around each dive to do this would secure your variety of species?


Very cool! I have wanted to start growing coral fragments myself on a chain link fence to help regrow the reefs, because I can where I'm located. Sadly, I do not want to break any laws, and there is a big gray area on what I can do.

The reefs are dying due to global warming. I've seen it first hand and it's truly saddening.

Honestly, the reef fish population is, from what I've seen, very healthy here in Hawaii. No need to expand the reefs. The fish breed and come back, just like farming.

I also do NOT set traps, and catch fish using hand nets and fence nets. I specifically pick which fish I catch!!!

The ocean is like the forest... it grows and dies and moves throughout the ocean!


What is the worst thing you have ever seen while scuba diving?


I saw a bull shark eat a fish right off my friends stinger while spearfishing. He looked down after it happened and only saw half a fish!! He is lucky the shark was precise and didn't accidentally take his leg!!

Other than that, I didn't see it directly happen, but my old boss had a heart attack and drowned while scuba diving!! So sad!! Diving is very safe... sad to see him go!!


Are you writing this from a sharks stomach??


Nope! I don't kill or catch sharks! I'm certainly around them, but don't mess with them unless they mess with me!!


Do you ever feel guilt for removing a fish from it’s natural habitat where it may swim for hundreds of miles to a small aquarium where it will die before it’s natural life expectancy when there are countless captive bred fish which are hardier and have never experienced the open waters? Even in zoos and corporate aquaria there is fish loss. Why not focus on captive bred programs?


No, I don't feel bad about it. I've never killed or lost a fish (unless spearfishing for food)!! Honestly, as sad as it is to say... the fish don't know any better. Honestly, they may live better lives, since they're not swimming from predators daily!! I used to be a dolphin and sea lion trainer... that is sad and I'd never do it again!! Fish on the other hand, well they don't know and may live happier and stress free lives!


Best experience fishing? Oh! What’s the rarest fish you have ever caught?


I don't fish from land. I spearfish for food (don't just go killing fish for fun) and catch fish for work.

Best fishing experience... probably lobstering for spiny or slipper lobsters (BTW slipper lobsters are the sweetest and best lobster ever).

I also enjoy hogfish, which can only be speared and won't bite a hook! They only eat crab and shrimp, maybe a baby lobster, so they are the sweetest fish you'll ever taste! Do try one ASAP!

I do also enjoy the hunt for grouper and snappers!

Rarest fish I caught... sorry but couldn't say! I've caught too many fish to count. Some being very rare, but nothing like a $10,000+ fish. Maybe a $100-$300 fish at best!


Are you based only to work on a specific island or are you able to work throughout the islands? If you work on all the islands, are you able to work internationally?


I can work on any island, but the same fish are there on every island so it makes no sense to work on a different island!!


How do you catch the fish? Specific tool?


I carry two hand nets (like butterfly nets), a weighted and buoyed fence net, a tickler spear, and a bucket to keep the fish in. I carry 5 things and have to drop and move things one by one periodically. Drop and go and repeat!

I've got about 3000-5000 dives under my belt. This is no easy task... good luck on being able to catch even 1 fish and handle all the gear if you have less than 1000 dives!! This job is no easy task... one of the hardest underwater jobs I've had!!


What questions would you like to answer?


Anything really! Mainly though I would like to let people know we aren't destroying the ocean and taking every fish. Commercial fishing boats do far far more/greater damage to the ocean than anywhere near me catching a handful of fish. In all honesty, we barely even put a dent in the fish population. Catching fish is the hardest thing I've ever done underwater. Much much harder than sitting in a deer stand or duck blind and pulling a trigger. Why is no one crying about shooting deer, ducks, or quail? People even hunt bears and moose for goodness sakes!! But they're doing it sustainably, which is what we do too!! Plus, fish have more than one or two babies, try hundreds to thousands. I'm still confused on the hate this industry gets. Yes, we are not eating the fish, but that's a whole different discussion!

However, people sometimes think we are the bad guys. Think again! I don't kill sharks, turtles, or random fish. I specifically pick and choose which fish to catch, which is far more sustainable.


With their short lifespans and elusive character, have you collected many octopus (of any variety) and what can you say about them?


Yes I've caught more than a few to eat, but I don't catch then anymore since there so smart and I feel bad. They are very smart, and super strong. I've put two feet on a rock just to try to pull once out. No joke, they're pure muscle and force!

Interesting fact, you can't keep or sell an octopus unless it's over 1lb... and that's a big octopus, so we don't collect them!!


Is there any specifc fish that is harder to catch than others due not to rarity, but to their speed or ability to hide?


Yes very much so! Pufferfish swim so slowly it's a joke/easy to catch them. Tangs, butterfly fish, angel fish just to name a few are a completely different story! They are super fast you'll never catch one EVER with a hand net, a fence net is you're only hope!


Do you collect any of the native species from the area, like flame wrasses or flame angels?


I do catch only local fish/native species! I don't think I've ever seen either of those fish in my life! I dive all the time, and still don't think I've ever seen those fish!! That's a rare occurrence for me!! What depths are they common??


Does catching fish affect the environment (eg Fauna,...) ?


Maybe it does, I'm not 100% sure to be honesty with you. I would say NO that we're not damaging the reef ecosystem.

We only visit a single dive site every 3-6 months. It's like farming... harvest what you need and give it time to regrow!

Killing sharks and other big ocean game predators DOES screw with the ecosystem. We're only taking a small amount of fish.

The commercial fishing and shrimping boats are what are truly messing up the ocean!!


Which is the most well known commercial aquarium that you’ve fished for? And how many years have you been in this job?


I've helped catch fish for the aquarium in Hawaii and the universities... I've also caught fish in Florida for an aquarium, but that was just for fun!!


How do you catch the fish and keep them alive?


Never killed a fish! We let them decompress before taking them up. We keep them in fresh saltwater/sea water in tubs until they make it to the aquarium. Reef fish can easily live in a tub for 3+ hours!


What kind of fish? I've kept several aquariums in my day, but my favorite type of fish were African cichlids.


Everything you could imagine. Butterfly fish, angel fish, pufferfish, tangs, gobies, banded shrimp, eels and so much more!!


I totally thought that said you were a llama diver and got all excited.

So would you rather dive with a llama or an alpaca as your partner?


I don't know... which is nice?


Money and aquarium owners and a aquariums want to own fish??!! Also, have you never been to a zoo or aquarium as a kid? Do you think the fish just swam into the aquarium? LOL thanks for the major laugh!!

Don't want to call you dumbass, but seriously how do you think fish get into aquariums? How do you think animals get into zoos? Wow just wow!

I do things ethically and with respect for nature... and educate kids on proper ocean care. You made me laugh and thanks for that!! How can you educate people if you can't show them how??


A few years ago in Indonesia, I watched a gang of fish collectors systematically destroy a patch of coral reef using bars and hammers to frighten little fish from their hiding places. Do you use destructive techniques like what I observed, because the fuckers I watched certainly were “rapists of the sea”?


Absolutely not!! I use hand nets and a fence net to catch fish. I don't ever want to harm the reefs... that is f'ed up they did that!!




Sharks bothering me?? Sharks are essential to the reef, but are annoying and a hassle to deal with!!


Are you aware of the fact that fish is able to feel i.e. lonely or afraif? If not, then educate yourself and change your job as its harmufl. If you are aware... Well, then what you're doing is disgusting as you are basically kidnapping living creatures for your own profit, in that case that would be disgusting.


Yes I understand fish can be afraid. I've seen it hundreds of times when they are swimming for their lives! We definitely do things sustainably, so that's no issue. Think what you will, but you're wrong. Fish have 100's to 1000's of babies. If a baby fish is inside a tank, it doesn't have to worry about predators eating it every single minute. I understand intelligence, and a fish in an aquarium is none the wiser.


Are the fish better off in the aquariums? Or would they be better off in their natural habitat?

(I know I come across as salty, bitter and vegan, but I am not vegan. The other two are debatable)


I honestly don't know. My best guess? Better off in aquariums since they aren't swimming for their lives from predators on the daily!! Seen it every day in the wild!! They swim, hide, and run from their from predators!! I honestly don't know though. Fish aren't very smart (just swim and escape) so I don't now they even understand if they're in a tank? I'm still not sure!!


Have you encountered any deep sea fish? I’m fascinated yet terrified of deep sea fish so do you have any recommendations on some weird deep sea creatures to research?


No super deep fish... the pretty ones are swimming shallow (<100ft)! The deep fish are usually ugly, and no one wants ugly fish!!


What kind of fish are high in demand? I remember being amazed with the variety of fish when I was snorkeling there. Seeing new ones every time!


Honestly no one in particular, every aqaurist wants something different! Just depends on the person!


How ethical is this? Are there many regulations to protect endangered species, and how well are they enforced?


We have our licenses. Most people think we are destroying the ocean when you say you're catching fish. We only go to a single site once every 3-6 months. It's like farming, we only harvest just enough and give it time to regrow!

Look into commerical fishing. They kill sharks, turtles, and random fish and are destroying our ocean.

We take a handful of fish that we pick and choose. We honestly aren't the bad guys!


What kind of fresh water fish are in the island? Neat or otherwise. You have a freshwater eel I think?


I don't catch freshwater fish ever. Not even sure what freshwater fish are even here in Hawaii. I've never thought about freshwater eels, other then an electric eel.


Have you ever been attacked by the fish when trying to catch a fish?


Well yes kind of. Not while catching fish, but I've been attacked by many stupid damsel fish (which thinks it's the biggest fish in the ocean) and there bite feels like a peck on the cheek, and the mean/territorial effect Humuhumu which their bite actually hurts!


Where can I find you for personal interaction?


Under the water scuba diving!


What's the most exotic/rarest fish you caught?


Not sure... I couldn't say because I've caught tons of fish!


What's your favorite freshwater fish?


I live in the ocean... don't collect freshwater fish or know anything about them!!


how do i do this?


Be a scuba diver and know your fish! Then find a aquarium that needs fish! DM if you're really interested and want more info!!

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