Pacific Whale Foundation's  testimony regarding Maui County's BILL FOR AN ORDINANCE AMENDING CHAPTER 6.04, MAUI COUNTY CODE, PERTAINING TO ANIMAL CONTROL"  presented to the Maui County Council on January 21, 2011.
TO: Honorable Chair Mateo and Maui County Councilmembers, Council of the County of Maui.
RE: Council Meeting January 21, 2011
FROM: Pacific Whale Foundation, Anne Rillero, Conservation Director, 300 Ma’alaea Road, Suite 211, Wailuku, HI, 96793

Pacific Whale Foundation is a nonprofit organization with headquarters in Maui; we have more than 300,000 supporters across the United States and worldwide. Our mission is to protect our oceans through science and advocacy. We thank the Maui County Council for your work to curb the unregulated extraction of reef wildlife for the aquarium trade. 

Pacific Whale Foundation strongly supports Bill No. 99, a bill for an ordinance amending Chapter 6.04, Maui County Code, pertaining to Animal Control – a bill that provides for the humane treatment of aquatic life collected for aquarium purposes.
As an organization with a 30-year history of protecting marine wildlife, we support this bill because it prevents cruelty to marine animals -- namely those fish and invertebrates that are collected from the wild by the aquarium trade to become “pets.”  There is precedence throughout the United States in establishing clear laws to prevent cruelty to pets. While laws vary from state to state, it is generally accepted that cruelty to animals includes intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly torturing, tormenting, causing substantial bodily injury, or starving any animal, or depriving a pet animal of necessary sustenance.
Reef fish and other animals gathered by the aquarium trade deserve this protection. On Maui, more than 17,000 animals per year fall into this category. The bill before you will outlaw practices currently employed by those in the aquarium collection trade that clearly amount to animal cruelty including withholding food for more than twelve hours; piercing or deflating a fish's swim bladder and fin or spine trimming. By banning these practices, Maui County will ensure the highest level of care for the marine wildlife that is collected. For example, feeding fish on a regular schedule may require that the collector place the fish in a larger plastic bag with more water, to allow for the build-up of waste products excreted by the fish. While inconvenient for the collector, it is healthier and less stressful for the fish.
Pacific Whale Foundation strongly supports Ordinance 99 as a means to reduce the unacceptably high mortality rate of fish and invertebrates collected by the aquarium trade. A 2000 report by the Trade Subgroup of the International Working Group of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force noted that: “it has been estimated that the mortality of reef species from source reef to home aquaria may be as high as 90%.” This high mortality rate creates additional pressures on our reefs, as collectors seek to replace what is dying. Forcing collectors to report on the mortality rates of the wildlife they hold will help drive down these rates.
Reducing this waste is important, because what aquarium collectors are taking cannot be replaced.  Coral reefs are complex ecosystems. The colorful reef fish each play an important role in maintaining the reef’s natural balance. For example, herbivores, which are collected by the aquarium trade in large numbers, play a significant role in controlling benthic algae. Without these fish, algae can grow out of control, killing the corals that are the very foundation of all reef life. 

Worldwide, there is ample evidence that living marine wildlife has a far greater economic value than captured or killed wildlife. This is especially true in Maui County, where our beautiful coral reefs have significance in our appeal as a world-class visitor destination. It is imperative that Maui County’s leaders recognize the economic value of our reef resources to our entire community, and not allow these precious shared resources to be squandered by the relatively small percentage of the population that engages in collecting for the aquarium trade.
It is said that the heart of a community can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members. Let us ensure the humane treatment of these vulnerable reef animals. We thank you for your leadership in regulating the aquarium trade on Maui.