PIJAC issues Action Alert for Hawaii Aquarium Trade

PIJAC issues Action Alert for Hawaii Aquarium Trade

via PIJAC [updated 11:30 AM CST]



The House Ocean, Marine Resources, & Hawaiian Affairs Committee of the Hawaii Legislature plans to hear and vote on three bills (HB 606, 873 and 883) that directly targets the aquarium trade by imposing outright bans or standards on fish collecting that are detrimental to the safety of the fish as well as make it impossible to operate in a humane and economic manner. The Committee will also hear one bill (HB 511) designed to protect fishermen from undue harassment. Many of these proposals start from an assumption that the fishing associated with the aquarium industry negatively impacts local population of native species.


HB 606 – Establishes a 10-year moratorium on the taking of aquarium fish. This is the practical equivalent of outlawing the entire aquarium fishing industry.

HB 873 – Prohibits the sale of aquatic life for aquarium purposes use “taken from any of the waters within the jurisdiction of the State”. This bill is nearly identical to SB322 in the Senate.

HB 883 – Mandates collection, shipping, and holding practices that would make it impossible to care for fish in a humane manner.

“Cruel treatment” means:

  • Surfacing at a rate resulting in physical damage to the body tissue;
  • Piercing or deflating the swim bladder;
  • Cutting the fin or spine
  • Withholding food for more than twenty-four hours; or
  • Holding fish or aquatic life in less than one gallon of water, per each specimen, within any container.

HB 511 – Establishes anti-harassment provisions against intentionally preventing or attempting to prevent lawful taking if fish by licensed collectors. The law would ensure that no one can intentionally prevent or attempt to prevent the lawful taking of fish by a person possessing a permit issued by the State or fishing in marine waters within the State’s jurisdiction by placing themselves in a location in which human presence may affect the behavior of fish to be taken or the feasibility of taking such fish. Nor would they create a visual, aural, olfactory, or physical stimulus to affect the behavior of fish to be taken; OR affect the condition or placement of personal property intended for use in fishing activities; OR obstructing the fisher’s access to areas in which the person intends to lawfully take fish.


For residents of Hawai’i:

  • All testimony/comments have to be submitted by no later than 5:00 pm 8:00 AM (Hawaii-Aleutian Time Zone) Tuesday February 10, 2015. You need to submit separate comments for each bill – do not comment on all of the bills in one document.
  • You must submit testimony individually for each bill. Do not combine on one letter!
  • Alert everyone you can and encourage them to not only send comments, but also attend the Hearing that starts on Wednesday February 11 at 8:30 AM in Conference Room 325, State Capitol, 415 South Beretania Street.
  • You can submit your testimony/comments by several methods:
    • Testimony on personal letterhead and attachments can be submitted online via the Capitol website. Submissions by the Capitol website will be part of the Record. To use this method, go to the web page of each bill (listed above), click on the blue “submit testimony” button, and follow the instructions. Select “oppose” for HB 606, 873, and 883, and “support” for HB 511, plus whatever statement you would like to make about the legislation. Please note that, before you can submit online testimony, you must register an account with the State Capitol, which can be done at the following link: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/login/register.aspx
    • To send your testimony to individual Committee members, see email addresses below or use the PIJAC link to only send to individual members. To be in the hearing record use Capitol link above.
    • Contact committee members offices, especially if you happen to know them, to let them know why you are opposed to all of the bills but HB 511 and support the HB 511 anti-harassment protection.

For all others:

  • All testimony/comments have to be submitted by no later than 5:00 pm 8:00 AM (Hawaii-Aleutian Time Zone) Tuesday February 10, 2015. You need to submit separate comments for each bill – do not comment on all of the bills in one document.
  • You can submit your testimony/comments by several methods:

Contact everyone you know in Hawai’i and encourage them to act as well as notify all of their friends. Contact your friends, family, coworkers, employees and anyone you do business with, and get them to weigh in on these bills immediately.

The following is provided to help you when preparing your testimony:

  1. Hawai’i’s aquarium industry is considered as one of if not the best regulated near-shore fishery in the world.
  2. The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), pursuant to State law, submits a report every 5 years to the legislature “Relating to the West Hawai’i Regional Fishery Management Area.”
  3. The 2015 Report found that the “The Hawai′i marine aquarium fishery is currently the most economically valuable commercial inshore fishery in the State with FY 2014 reported landings greater than $2.3 million.”
  4. DLNR found that the West Hawaii “no-aquarium collecting” Fish Replenishment Areas (FRAs), implemented in 1999, have been very successful in increasing populations of Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) — the most heavily targeted aquarium fish accounting for 84% of the total catch. Fifteen years after closure, the population of Yellow Tang has increased 64.5% in the FRAs while its abundance in the Open Areas has not declined significantly.” Overall Yellow Tangs have increased substantially with a current population in excess of 3.6 million fish.
  5. DLNR , based upon the effectiveness of the West Hawai′i FRAs for aquarium fish, recommends that it establish MPAs for other fish species.
  6. DNLR Aquarium ‘White List’ for West Hawaii of 40 species permitted for the aquarium trade is working. Fish not on the list can not be collected for the aquarium trade. Size and bag limits for three species are in place.
  7. Recently an updated rules package was adopted for the Oahu ornamental aquarium fishery.
  8. The regulatory mechanisms covering the Hawaiian aquarium fishery supports the tenets of the sustainable use of renewable natural resources supported in the IUCN’s Policy Statement on Sustainable Use as an important conservation tool that provides people with incentives in the form of social and economic benefits as in the case of DNLR’s management of the Oahu and West Hawaii fisheries. That is buttressed by DLNR’s adaptive management by continually improving its management as new challenges arise. This involves monitoring, assessment and applying the results by adjusting management regimes to achieve the desired result.
  9. Every responsible scientific study, and even Hawaii’s own DLNR, say that the management practices currently in place have resulted in an increase in Hawaii’s fish population over the last 15 years. Of all the things that affect the health of the reef and its inhabitants, fishing for the aquarium trade has the lowest impact.
  10. Tourism, while essential to the Hawaiian economy, has a far greater impact than aquarium fishing does. To see tourism businesses like diving guides complain about the aquarium trade is opportunistic and somewhat hypocritical.
  11. A moratorium is a nothing more than a ban. The idea that the state of Hawaii would kill an entire industry and shut down Hawaiian businesses that have been responsibly operating for decades is unfathomable. The idea that this legislation offers job retraining for people who have built business over generations closed despite the proven fact that it was doing no harm to the environment is, frankly, dismissive of all the efforts, risks and financial commitments that it took to build these businesses
  12. The steps that are taken in preparing fish for transportation are done for the safety and survivability of the fish. It makes no economic sense to intentionally engage in selling injured, infirm or sick fish.
  13. Withholding food prior to shipment is a long accepted husbandry practice well documented in the literature as well as recommended in the International Air Transport Association Live Animals Regulations to eliminate harm from exposing the fish to elevated levels of ammonia and to ensure that the digestive tract is cleared and the water has not been fouled. If the proposed rule is adopted it will lead to severe stress or death.
  14. Trimming tail spines (the equivalent of trimming your nails) keeps them from puncturing the shipping bags.
  15. Requiring one gallon of water per fish is completely arbitrary and there are absolutely no science-based studies supporting such a requirement.
  16. A 2012 Washington State University study by Emily Munday — “The Effects of Venting and Decompression on Mortality and Sublethal Effects in Yellow Tangs (Zebrasoma flavescens) Caught for the West Hawaii Aquarium Trade” — found that the practices of the Hawaii fish exporters did not cause any mortality in Yellow Tangs received by the researcher and held for the duration of the 6 month study – and ongoing observation. The same study found that fasting pre-shipment is the best practice and prohibiting fasting would be detrimental.
  17. Statements that the Aquarium trade is harvesting Hawaiian corals are inaccurateCollecting corals for the aquarium trade has been prohibitedfor years and there is no evidence of the aquarium trade removing corals.

For more information, contact Chris Buerner or Marshall Meyers.

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