Hawaii Halts All Marine Collection

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Hawaii halts all marine collection
15th May 2018

By Sandra Pearce
Hawaii is a major source of commercial aquarium fish and reports annual gross sales of $3.2m (£2.4m). It provides 93% of the yellow tangs in world’s aquariums
 
Hawaii has ruled that all 130 recreational aquarium collection permits are now void, bringing the collection of marine ornamentals for the trade to a halt.
 
Each permit authorised the recreational capture of almost 2,000 fish each year, to a total of around 250,000 fish per year. 
 
The permits have been deemed illegal, the court ruled on April 12, due to their failure to comply with The Hawaii Environmental Policy Act (EPA) and examine environmental consequences before issuing permits.
 
However, a draft environmental assessment by Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources suggests there would be no significant environmental impact from the resumption of the practice around Oahu and Hawaii Island.
 
Aquarium fishermen were barred from plying their trade in Hawaii waters after the state Supreme Court sided with a coalition of environmental groups that said the impact of the aquarium trade has not been properly documented. 
 
The state’s First Circuit Court, sitting as the Environmental Court, ruled all 233 commercial aquarium fish permits invalid.
 
AVAILABLE DATA
 
The draft Environmental Assessment, applied for by the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council representing the aquarium trade and prepared by international consultant Stantec Consulting Services, included data from 256 survey points around Hawaii Island and 228 around Oahu, reports the Hawaii Tribune Herald. No data was collected on the other islands, as there is no significant aquarium fish collection on Kauai, Molokai, Maui, or Lanai.
 
“We worked hard to find and consider all available data on the fishery so that the best science was involved in its preparation,” said Robert Likins, vice president of government affairs for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, on Monday. 
 
“We were unable to find any research which shows that the aquarium fishery is depleting the reefs, and two studies have concluded that the fishery has no significant impact on coral or the reef ecosystem.”
 
The Assessment has been met with both scrutiny and approval. Some believe it lacks the depth and analysis necessary to draw conclusions about the environmental impact of aquarium fishing practices while others think it provides adequate proof that Hawaii’s aquarium fishing practices are sustainable.
 
From 2000-17, the aquarium fishery within the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area alone added an average of $1.4m annually to the state’s economy, while the overall aquarium fishery within the state added an average of $2.1m to the economy, the report states.