MASNA is proud to announce Tal Sweet as the 2020 MASNA Aquarist of the Year for his years promoting marine ornamental aquaculture and fostering diversity and inclusion within the aquarium community.
Tal first became involved in the marine aquarium hobby in the late 1980’s. Back then hobbyists in the metro-Detroit area were just beginning to experiment with keeping corals alive, with little success. In those days, undergravel filters and incandescent lighting were still common. Tal had two aquariums set up. One housed an octopus for over a year and another with a wrasse that he brought back from Hawaii in a carry-on cooler.
After an extended break he got back into the hobby in 2006 and became a director for the Marinelife Aquarium Society of Michigan (MASM). In 2008 he was bitten by the Captive Breeding bug after hearing Dr. Frank Marini speak at a MASM event. It was interest in Captive Breeding that led him to push for the founding of the Marine Breeding Initiative (MBI). Since then, the MBI has become one of the largest databases for captive breeding information in the world.
Tal also created the MBI Workshop which was the first event of its kind; bringing together hobbyist breeders, commercial breeders, and professional aquarists from around North America and the UK in an intimate setting to discuss the latest developments in Captive Breeding. 2019 was the tenth year of this annual event. 2020 would have been the eleventh but as with most other things this year it has been postponed until 2021.
Tal has spoken about captive breeding at clubs around the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. He has also written for various publications including CORAL Magazine and Reef Hobbyist Magazine. The annual list of captive bred fishes, and now inverts, published by CORAL Magazine is another project that Tal works on each year with Matthew Pedersen. This list endeavors to keep an up-to-date list of all species that have been bred in captivity and their availability to the trade.
As a member of the LGBT+ community, Tal created Rainbow Reefers for MACNA 2018 to bring members of the community and their allies together to share their stories and love of the marine aquarium hobby. The group meeting was well attended and appreciated by those who were there. Tal feels it is important for every member of the hobby to feel welcomed and free to be themselves without fear if discrimination.
In 2019 the MBI Council awarded him with its “X Prize” for “Dedication to advancing the ideals of science, research, knowledge, friendly competition, fellowship, and transparency among those who culture marine organisms by helping to create the MBI”. Tal was also awarded the MBI Award by the MBI Council.
At home, Tal’s 90 gallon reef tank houses fish and corals, some of which he’s had since 2006. Besides aquatic things, Tal loves to travel, scuba dive, cook, host dinner parties, and is a huge sci-fi geek. Oh, and cheese! Tal has loved Halloween since he was a kid and creates new life-size props for the neighborhood to enjoy every year. He is also the proud parent of three felines, Oliver, Felicity, and Sasha.
For More Info, see MASNA Press Release