Ret Talbot '89 Pens Article for National Geographic

In his article titled 'Holy Grail' Test for Illegal Cyanide-Caught Aquarium Fish May Be Fatally Flawed Millbrook alumnus Ret Talbot '89 discusses recent findings that a once celebrated study, which was believed to determine if tropical marine aquarium fish were caught illegally using cyanide, is flawed and inaccurate. 

"It is estimated that during the past half-century more than 2.2 million pounds of cyanide were illegally used on Philippine coral reefs to exploit fish for the aquarium and live food trades," Talbot '89 writes. The cyanide paralyzes fish, making them easier to catch.

Without a reliable way to test these exotic fish for cyanide without causing them harm, it is nearly impossible to regulate the industry and deter fisheries from using these environmentally harmful and illegal practices. 

The finding that the cyanide test is unreliable has resulted in a"reset on cyanide detection research," states Talbot '89. Scientists seem to agree that the issue is complicated, given the vast amount of species and the importance of being able to support cyanide-free supply chains in the exotic fishing industry. 

“We need to acknowledge we certainly don’t have the panacea here that we thought we had with that 2012 paper,” says Andrew Rhyne, a scientist at Roger Williams University and one of those voicing concerns about the efficacy of the widely accepted and respected cyanide testing. “We hope in reporting our findings that it will provide the stimulus needed to look for alternate methods to detect cyanide-caught fish." 

About Ret Talbot '89
Ret Talbot is an award-winning journalist who has covered stories from some of the most remote corners of the globe, from the icy summits of the Andes to the reefs fo Papua New Guinea. Learn more about Talbot '89 here.

Read the Talbot's '89 National Geographic article in its entirety here