National Geographic published, “The Horrific Way Fish Are Caught for your Aquarium – With Cyanide,” on March 10, 2016. The magazine included statistics claiming that “98% of – yes, almost all – species of saltwater fish, can’t be bred in captivity.” They also stated that ““Up to 90% of the [marine] tropical fish that enter the U.S. each year, are caught illegally with cyanide.” However, both of these statements are untrue.

What is Sodium Cyanide? Sodium cyanide is an inorganic compound that delivers fish that die within aquariums, long after a trail of dead coral and invertebrates are left behind on the reef. The practice of using Sodium Cyanide with as been made illegal in most countries that source marine fish.

National Geographic makes false and surprising remarks such as referring to the data they collected as a “recent study”. They even provided a link to another source that they used for evidence: A UNEP (United Nations Environmental Program) report that states, “70 percent of marine ornamental fish are caught with cyanide, in the country surveyed.” However, the country surveyed was only the Philippines. Also, the report claims that the statistic was “70 percent” not “90 percent”. Are these two significant mistakes simply carelessness on behalf of the magazine company or a faux?

Reasons behind National Geographic’s Unprofessionalism: The writer of National Geographic’s article was gathering facts from The Humane Society and For the Fishes, two environmental organizations pushing for an end to the marine livestock trade. Apparently, both these organizations have been known for providing fuzzy numbers and inaccurate facts. Why? The goal of these organizations is to convince the general public and policy makers to either strictly regulate the ornamental fish trade, or end it completely. One might assume it is strange that National Geographic did not collect additional data from scientists or other resources. However, after looking over the accuracy of the article, the audience can only assume that they must have failed to do so.

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  1. Gosnell, Jeremy. National Geographic Checks the Facts at the Door. March 11 2016.