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Fish Painting Craze
'Getting Out of Hand'

An underwater photography contest with a $10,000 first prize has led to cheating: using bio-adhesive paints to artificially color fish.

(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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