The title of this documentary sounds like a horror film … and, indeed, it is – an all-too-real one.

“The Dark Hobby” is a fascinating expose of a real crisis – one you may never have considered.

Much like its far-too-little-seen documentary “Kangaroo,” this superb film exposes the politics behind a delicate ecosystem and the hapless creatures involved within it.

Tourists flock to coral reefs, while hobbyists buy millions of exotic fish. In fact, as you read this, about 28 million fish are in the pipeline from being captured to the tanks of hobbyists, making millions for the aquarium trade.

More than 1,800 species are represented in this trade in which fish – many of which die, many after being cruelly mutilated – within a year. That keeps the need for more fish continuing.

The Hawaii aquarium trade brings in millions from the sale of ornamental fish. But can such an economy take precedence over the fish that are part of the fragile ecosystem of the coral reefs?  Fish advocates maintain that, at the very least, catch limits should be put in place. Some even go so far as to say the capture of these rare fish should be prohibited to save both species and reefs.

Meanwhile, the numbers of fish continue to diminish.

There’s even more to the issue than that. Scientists who study fish talk about the intelligence of these creatures, which are smarter than we might think – they can recognize human faces – and which can feel pain.

For anyone concerned with this environment, this is a don’t-miss film. It isn’t easy to watch at times – the fish are injured, and sometimes are killed or die throughout. It’s heartbreaking to hear advocates pleas for legislation to protect the reefs and fish alike.

For those concerned with ecology, it will be yet another lesson about how fragile our Earth is, and the far-reaching effects of human interference.

To find out more about this movie, which premiers on Endangered Species Day (May 21) visit

You may never look at an aquarium the same way again.

4 stars

Rated: Unrated.

Running time: One hour and 12 minutes. Streaming on Apple TV, Google, youtube and other services