(Cozumel, Mexico) Scuba divers in this popular tourist
area are reporting an increasing number of fish whose natural
coloration has been enhanced through the application of new
bio-adhesive paints. The bizarre practice apparently started
about a year ago during an underwater photography competition.
Local dive shop owner Lloyd Bridges talked to ecoEnquirer
about the problem aboard his dive boat, 'Sea Hunt'. "When the
first prize in the 2005 photo competition reached $10,000,
we started to see pictures with fish colors that appeared
too vivid, too unrealistic", explained Bridges. "Just like the use of PhotoShop
has led to alteration of digital photographs, the invention
of a new class of bio-adhesive paints has led to the
artificial coloring of fish, directly."
The first prize in the 2005 competition was almost
awarded for a spectacular photo (see above) when a visiting
diver, who was also a marine biologist, recognized the
fish species and mentioned that it did not 'come in that color'.
Now, even without a formal photo competition, it appears that some
divers with an artistic bent are painting fish, and then
sharing photos among themselves. "There now seems to be an informal
competition going on, one in which photographic and artistic
skills are necessary to excel", said Mr. Bridges. "Some people
just seem to have too much time on their hands, I guess."
It is feared that the practice will spread to the tropical fish
industry, where unusual specimens of fish can command prices
of hundreds of dollars. "The whole fish painting craze has
simply gotten out of hand," Bridges said, "but it sure has
made diving around here a lot more interesting."
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