Svein A. Fosså is the 2021 MASNA Award Honoree

30 Aug, 2021

An important part of fighting for a sustainable aquarium trade is to have conservation interests close at heart. Among the many organizations, Svein Fosså collaborates with is LINI in Bali, Indonesia. To the right is LINI’s founder and CEO, Gayatri Reksodihardjo-Lilley.
An important part of fighting for a sustainable aquarium trade is to have conservation interests close at heart. Among the many organizations Svein Fosså collaborates with is LINI in Bali, Indonesia. To the right is LINI’s founder and CEO, Gayatri Reksodihardjo-Lilley.

via Marine Aquarium Societies of North America (MASNA)

Svein A. Fosså intervening in a discussion on the conservation status of South American freshwater stingrays at the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, in Bangkok 2013.
Svein A. Fosså intervening in a discussion on the conservation status of South American freshwater stingrays at the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, in Bangkok 2013.

MASNA is proud to honor Svein A. Fosså of Grimstad, Norway as the 2021 MASNA Award recipient for his foundational publications, his lifelong involvement in promoting the marine aquarium hobby, and his tireless scientific and logical defense of the aquarium hobby and trade on the global stage through his work with Ornamental Fish International and CITES.

MASNA will be awarding its annual MASNA Aquarist of the Year and MASNA Award to the recipients at the MACNA 2021 Saturday Afternoon Awards Ceremony from 3 pm Eastern, September 4th, 2021 at MACNA 2021 – Supporting an Equitable Trade.

Annually, MASNA awards the prestigious MASNA Award and Aquarist of the Year Award to deserving individuals for their work in helping shape and influence the marine aquarium hobby in a way that positively contributes to the ongoing sustainability of the hobby to the future marine environment. Together with MASNA, previous recipients of the MASNA Award confer to decide who has given the most to the hobby and industry to be deserving of that years’ awards from a selection of nominees.

About Svein A. Fosså – MASNA Award, 2021

Svein A Fosså grew up in a home with an aquarium, and got his first personal freshwater tank when he was probably 7-8 years old. He was one of the first aquarists to keep marine aquariums in Norway, starting around 1973 or 1974, when he was only 14 or 15 years old. His correspondence with Lee Chin Eng in Indonesia (the father of “The Natural System”) in the late 1970s inspired him to experiment with live rock in aquarium systems and laid much of the ground for his subsequent philosophy in aquarium keeping. 

"Captive breeding is an important and growing part of the marine ornamental industry, albeit not in any way a fix-all for the challenges we are up against," notes Fosså, reflecting on a recent tour of ORA in Florida with ORA president Dustin Dorton (at right).
“Captive breeding is an important and growing part of the marine ornamental industry, albeit not in any way a fix-all for the challenges we are up against,” notes Fosså, reflecting on a recent tour of ORA in Florida with ORA president Dustin Dorton (at right).

Together with Alf Jacob Nilsen (2020 MASNA Award Recipient), Svein has published a book series titled “Korallrevsakvariet” (4 volumes in Swedish), “Das Korallenriff Aquarium” (6 volumes in German by Birgit Schmettkamp Verlag, Bornheim, Germany), and “The Coral Reef Aquarium” (4 volumes in English, Birgit Schmettkamp Verlag, Bornheim, Germany).  The German edition was expanded with two volumes published in German in 2010 and 2016 (by Natur & Tier Verlag, Münster, Germany).  Altogether the series has sold some 110,000 copies worldwide.  The books try to link coral reef science and general biology with the coral reef aquarium as it is his honest belief that the average marine aquarium hobbyist needs some understanding of biology and coral reef ecology to be really successful and to understand what goes on in a small captive reef. They also try to describe the fundamental techniques needed for maintaining a coral reef aquarium over time and to grow corals in captivity.

While Fosså is probably best known as an author of aquarium literature, he has a much larger impact on the marine aquarium hobby and trade than most aquarists realize. It is highly likely that we would be in a far worse state were it not for his decades of effort on behalf of the aquarium trade, most of which is unknown to the average home aquarist. While many are familiar with his books, Svein currently serves as the Vice President of Ornamental Fish International (OFI), President of the European Pet Organization, Chairman & Secretary-General of the Norwegian Pet Trade Association, and Editor-in-Chief of the PetScandinavia pet trade magazine.

Despite having been a professional lobbyist for the ornamental aquatic trade for three decades, Svein is still a hobby-oriented boy at heart and enjoys talking to other die-hard aquarists. Here he visits with Julian Sprung in Miami in 2020, shortly before the pandemic.
Despite having been a professional lobbyist for the ornamental aquatic trade for three decades, Svein is still a hobby-oriented boy at heart and enjoys talking to other die-hard aquarists. Here he visits with Julian Sprung in Miami in 2020, shortly before the pandemic.

When introduced at the 2021 Monaco Blue Initiative, Fosså was described as “a leading international voice for responsible and sustainable practices in the ornamental aquatic trade.” Fosså’s interest in an equitable and sustainable aquarium trade traces back as early as the second volume of the Swedish “Korallrevs-Akvariet”, published in 1989, where a full chapter was included on sustainability issues in the marine aquarium trade. At the time, questioning the methods and ethics of the trade was seen by some as “strange, hostile, dangerous, or at the very least unimportant.”

The topic of a fair and ethical trade was expanded on in future books, as Svein recalls. “I believe we also got a bit more daring in challenging the opinions of our readership⁠—even though I to this day still believe that a balanced and not too critical approach achieves more positive effects than what confrontation would do. I have always been, and still remain, a wholehearted supporter of the marine ornamental fisheries, trade, and hobby; but we can always do better, and recent developments show that we have no option.”

A key element for being able to defend and promote this trade and hobby is understanding it. Svein has traveled extensively worldwide to visit fish collectors, farms, and traders for well over 40 years. He is seen here at a state-of-the art guppy farm in Singapore.
A key element for being able to defend and promote this trade and hobby is understanding it. Svein has traveled extensively worldwide to visit fish collectors, farms, and traders for well over 40 years. He is seen here at a state-of-the art guppy farm in Singapore.

Svein is currently unable to keep personal aquariums; prior to the pandemic, his efforts on behalf of the trade required 100-150 days of travel per year, which makes it incredibly difficult to also keep a successful aquarium. “Maybe when I retire, if I ever retire,” says Fosså. As a champion for a fair and sustainable trade, defensible with science and logic, perhaps the home hobbyist should consider their own aquarium as one of many that Svein A Fosså continues to make possible.

"Everything connects with everything. The challenges that the ornamental aquatic trade and hobby are up against are pretty much the same as we see in all sorts of pet-keeping, and we have a lot to gain by listening to each other no matter what our specific interests are animal wise," says Fossa. Here, Svein is visiting some invasive friends in Kensington Park in London; Rose-Ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri) have become one of the most recognized feral pet species in all of Europe.
“Everything connects with everything. The challenges that the ornamental aquatic trade and hobby are up against are pretty much the same as we see in all sorts of pet-keeping, and we have a lot to gain by listening to each other no matter what our specific interests are animal wise,” says Fossa. Here, Svein is visiting some invasive friends in Kensington Park in London; Rose-Ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri) have become one of the most recognized feral pet species in all of Europe.

About The Award Process

Every spring, MASNA Members are invited to submit nominations for consideration. Nominations in and of themselves are a great honor, so it is crucial that you take the time to nominate worthy candidates, particularly those unsung heroes in your own aquarist circle. The aquarist you may feel most deserves this honor can’t be considered if you don’t nominate them, so be sure to watch for the next nomination period in the spring of 2022.

Please also remember that you can resubmit your nominations in subsequent years to keep these noteworthy candidates up for consideration. Many past recipients have been nominated repeatedly before ultimately being selected by the committee.

Ultimately, the annual MASNA Award and Aquarist of the Year recognitions are the culmination of several months of nominations, considerations, debate, and a rigorous voting process. Recognition with these awards is more than just a milestone of recognition, but often represents encouragement that the honorees keep doing what they did that earned them this recognition, and hopes that there is even more to come!

To learn more about the MASNA Award visit: https://masna.org/masna-programs/the-masna-award/

About MASNA, Marine Aquarium Societies of North America

MASNA is a non-profit organization composed of marine aquarium clubs, individual hobbyists and industry partners from North American and abroad, totaling several thousand individuals.

MASNA Goals are to:

  • Educate our members with online and published material, the MACNA conference, and other sanctioned events,
  • Assist in forming and promoting the growth of clubs within the hobby while ensuring a sustainable future for the marine environment,
  • Support the efforts to eliminate abuses in collecting and transporting marine organisms through education, assistance, and encouragement, and
  • Encourage the ethical growth of the marine aquarium hobby and support captive breeding/propagation efforts.

MASNA’s charter and additional information about MASNA can be found at http://masna.org/aboutus.

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About the author

Reef To Rainforest

Reef to Rainforest Media, LLC is the publisher of award-winning magazines and books in the fields of aquarium keeping, aquatics, and marine science. It is the English-language publisher of CORAL Magazine and is based in Shelburne, Vermont, USA.

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