Dramatic Fish Death at Aquarium Shows Risk of Using Camera Flash

A video of a tuna fish reacting to flash photography and swimming headfirst into the aquarium’s glass has resurfaced online sparking a debate.

The shocking footage filmed in Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan was posted to Reddit two days ago sparking outrage that camera flashes had felled the tuna.

In the video, several flashes fire off into the giant tank that also houses a whale shark. Suddenly, the tuna fish builds up a head of steam and charges headfirst into the tank’s wall, the collision kills it instantly. Tuna can swim at speeds of 43 miles per hour.

Despite being widely reported as recent, the video is in fact at least nine years old.

Flash and Fish

In general, aquariums discourage visitors from using camera flashes.

“Please turn off your flash when taking photographs inside the Aquarium,” Monterey Bay Aquarium writes on its website.

“You’ll get better photos without your flash — and our animals and other visitors will thank you.”

Surprisingly, the Okinawa Chiraumi Aquarium, where the incident with the tuna fish happened, still permits flash photography. But selfie sticks are banned, as per its visitor information page.

The question of whether camera flash actually affects fish, and therefore killed the tuna, is uncertain.

“This is why flash photography should not be allowed in aquariums,” writes the person who posted the video to Reddit.

“The fish cannot see the glass and think the water continues onward in that direction as the flashes resemble reflective light bouncing off the water.”

While this may appear like a sound theory, scientific studies have concluded otherwise.

Maarten De Brauwer, a marine biologist, published his Ph.D. thesis entitled Behavioural and pathomorphological impacts of flash photography on benthic fishes.

“Our latest research, published in Nature Scientific Reports, shows that flash photography does not damage the eyes of seahorses, but touching seahorses and other fish can alter their behavior,” De Brauwer writes.

However, De Brauwer’s research only concerned seahorses, frogfishes, and ghost pipefishes. Creatures that pale in comparison when compared to 550-pound (250-kilograms) ocean-roaming tuna fish.

Visitors to the Georiga Aquarium in Atlanta are greeted with signs saying “no flash photography.” While the evidence may be inconclusive, it is best to err on the side of caution — especially when fish tanks tend to be well-lit anyway.