Of the many presentations that came out of MACNA 2018, one of the most-talked-about and first to be shared is Dr. Bruce Carlson’s look at the history and status of Hawaii’s Aquarium Fishery. Touted as one of the most sustainable and well-managed marine aquarium fisheries on the planet, it has come under fire repeatedly over the years.
Carlson’s in-depth talk lays out the need for management, recognized as early as 1978. It evolves to explain the management plans called for in 1998 and enacted soon thereafter. You’ll come to understand the difference between Fish Replenishment Areas (FRAs, where aquarium fishing is prohibited, but fishing for food is not) and Marine Life Conservation Districts (MLCDs, aka Marine Protected Areas or MPAs, where no fishing of any kind is permitted). Carlson further explains how all these areas are routinely monitored, with data collection going back years. Carlson’s presentation also illuminates many of the other terms, organizations, and people you hear about in debates over the aquarium fishery in Hawaii.
2017 to the Present
Carlson does an excellent job framing the debate over Hawaii’s Aquarium Fishery and explaining the current status of the fishery (which, among other things, explains how there can still be some fish collected and exported legally from certain parts of Hawaii, which is why you still see some fish showing up, albeit at higher expense and lower quantities than before). He illustrates how a relentless campaign of misinformation is being used to sway public opinion in favor of those whose greater aim is to end the practice of harvesting fish for aquariums around the globe.
Carlson is forced to close his presentation facing an uncertain future. While he is hopeful that data and science can win out, Hawaii’s aquarium fishery remains severely restricted at this time. Carlson offers some advice to all aquarists, which we’ll include here.
- The assault on the Hawaii Aquarium Fishery is a part of a much larger effort to stop the collection and import of all wild-caught marine life.
- Hobbyists (you!) and the industry need to be involved in multi-media and social media efforts to promote the benefits of your aquariums (educational, scientific, therapeutic, and economic) to a much wider audience outside of the hobby.
- Hobbyists, the aquarium industry, and public aquariums all need to support fisheries, like Hawaii’s fishery, that are well managed and sustainable, and do more to ensure that other fisheries are equally well managed and sustainable.
Watch “Hawaii’s Aquarium Fishery – What Happened?” (38:09)