SAN DIEGO and WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2013--Defenders of Wildlife, a widely respected nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities, and Petco Animal Supplies, a leading U.S.-based pet specialty retailer, today announced a collaboration agreement to improve efforts to conserve and protect the world's coral reefs and the fish that depend upon them.
Defenders is providing its expertise to help Petco identify and protect specific marine fish species that are vulnerable to over-collection; improve practices for their fish suppliers to ensure they minimize harm to coral reef environments; and develop ways to track the success of these efforts.
"For the past several years, Defenders of Wildlife has been working to improve conservation of the world's coral reef and fish communities," said Dr. Daniel Thornhill, a coral reef expert and conservation scientist at Defenders of Wildlife. "Petco is the largest U.S. retailer of marine aquatic life, and by collaborating with them, we will significantly improve marine aquatic life collection practices to benefit coral reef ecosystems."
Petco initiated the collaboration with three goals: to create strict requirements for fish collectors to use responsible and sustainable marine-life collection practices; to help prevent overfishing; and, whenever possible, to encourage the sale of aquacultured fish instead of wild-collected fish.
"We are challenging the aquatics industry to follow our lead in making positive changes that protect coral reefs," said Rich Williams, Vice President of Companion Animals for Petco. "Our efforts include educating our customers and the general public about environmentally responsible practices, and encouraging aquarium enthusiasts to choose aquacultured fish, which are born and raised in a tank environment, and not collected from the ocean."
An online survey of 1,200 adults conducted by Research Now found that, when presented with information on the impact that collecting fish from oceans or lakes can have on those ecosystems and how raising aquacultured fish can avoid that impact, 74 percent say that they would purchase aquacultured fish over fish collected from an ocean or lake.
The findings support Defenders of Wildlife and Petco's new initiative to reduce destructive fishing practices. "Reducing over-collection and eliminating harmful collection techniques benefit both coral reefs and fish, while helping to preserve complex reef ecosystems. With this collaboration, our two organizations take an important step forward in becoming a catalyst for improvements across the entire marine aquarium industry," said Thornhill.
As part of the ongoing collaboration, Defenders of Wildlife and Petco are launching a pledge that asks pet owners, enthusiasts and advocates to take a stand against damaging fishing practices by choosing aquacultured fish over those collected from the wild.
"Going forward, we will analyze the effects of our efforts on fish populations and formulate new strategies to help reef ecosystems thrive," said Williams.
To take the pledge, visit www.ChooseAquacultured.org .
To learn more about the collaboration, www.Defenders.org/collaborating-coral-reef-wildlife .
Contact: Haley McKey, (202) 772-0247, firstname.lastname@example.org 
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org  and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.
Petco is a leading pet specialty retailer that provides the products, services and advice that make it easier for our customers to be great pet parents. Everything we do is guided by our vision for Healthier Pets. Happier People. Better World. We operate more than 1,200 stores nationwide and in Puerto Rico, including more than 50 Unleashed by Petco locations, a smaller format neighborhood shop, and www.petco.com . The Petco Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization, has raised more than $110 million since it was created in 1999 to help promote and improve the welfare of companion animals. In conjunction with the Foundation, we work with and support thousands of local animal welfare groups across the country and, through in-store adoption events, help find homes for more than 350,000 animals every year.