Protect Hawaii Reef Fishes From Unregulated Aquarium Collecting

Conservation - Take Action - Protect Hawaii's Reef Fish

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Read Pacific Whale's latest testimony supporting SB26

If you've ever snorkeled in Hawaii, you are aware of the beautiful reef fish that live among the corals. But did you know that people in the aquarium collecting trade can simply scoop up these beautiful reef fish, put them in plastic bags and ship them off to distributors and stores around the world?  Help us enact needed controls on the aquarium fish collecting trade.

In the state of Hawaii, all it takes is a $50 permit to collect reef fish and invertebrates for the aquarium trade.
There is little or no regulation of these collectors, even though the practice is decimating reef wildlife populations around the state. Endemic species (species found nowhere else but Hawaii) are threatened with extinction by the aquarium trade. Almost half of the top 20 species collected are endemic. Some of these endemic species die quickly in captivity. These fish can command a high price: one  rare Hawaii endemic recently retailed for $9,500.
86% of all reef fish taken are algae-eaters. The loss of these fish means that the reefs suffer from an overgrowth of algae.
Fish in the wild can live for many years, once they get through the precarious juvenile stage. For example, Yellow Tangs can live for more than 40 years. However, up tot 40% of collected fish die before reaching the hobbyist; up to 97% of all wildlife taken is estimated to die within a year of capture.
Hawaii's state government controls the reefs and the nearshore areas, but has not taken action to control aquarium collectors.
However, at the urging of residents (including Pacific Whale Foundation) the Maui County Council took steps last year to regulate aquarium collecting where it could.  A bill passed in 2010 requires collectors in Maui County to obtain county permits, meet strict standards, and provide mortality reports, tax clearances and fees. Pacific Whale Foundation is proud to have testified on behalf of this new law -- which is the first to regulate aquarium extractors in Hawaii.
A second county bill to require humane treatment of reef fish collected by the aquarium trade underwent its final reading on January 21, 2011 -- and it passed unanimously! Pacific Whale Foundation is proud to have testified on this bill, which ensures the humane treatment of aquatic life collected by the aquarium trade. It bans cruel practices such as starvation (dealers starve wildlife for two to ten days before shipment in plastic bags, claiming that it boosts survival rates), finning (cutting off the sharp points of the dorsal fins to prevent the plastic bag from puncture) and fizzing (puncturing the fish's air bladder with a hypodermic needle to allow the fish to be quickly carried to the surface of the ocean).
Both Maui County bills helped raise public awareness about this issue. Now with a new governor in office and some new faces at Hawaii's state legislature, it appears that the state of Hawaii may also take action!
Hawaii Senate Bill 580, as introduced by Senate President Shan Tsutsui, D-Central Maui; Sen. J. Kalani English, D-Upcountry, East Maui, Molokai, Lanai; and Senator Roz Baker, D-South, West Maui, would have prohibited the sale of any aquatic life taken from waters within the state for aquarium purposes, It would have established prohibitions, penalties, and fines for knowingly selling aquatic life for aquarium purposes taken from waters within the jurisdiction of the State. This new law would have required an aquarium permit to take marine or freshwater nongame fish and other aquatic life for aquarium purposes. It would also have imposed new standards for aquarium permit issuance determinations.
The law would have exempted those who take reef fish for food or bait, as well as for scientific or educational purposes or cultural or religious use. This law would not have impacted aquariums in homes in Hawaii and display aquariums in Hawaii (where wildlife is displayed but not for sale).
Pacific Whale Foundation testified at a hearing on SB 580 on Thursday, February 3 at the State Capitol. Many of our friends and supporters also submitted testimony via letters and email.
Many representatives of the aquarium collecting trade, all wearing matching shirts, also testified at the hearing. Sadly, the Senate committee chose to dramatically alter SB 580, changing it to a bill that would establish two new marine protected areas on Maui.
We are not giving up on statewide legislation to protect Hawaii's reef fish.
Sign the online petition today and help ban unregulated aquarium collection.