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Hawaii News

Ruling goes in favor of aquarium fish trade

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KAILUA-KONA >> An appeals court has ruled that about 50 Hawaii businesses with permits to catch fish bound for aquariums do not need environmental assessments to receive the state permits allowing them to collect the fish.

Environmentalists in 2012 filed a lawsuit demanding the assessments. They say too many fish are taken from Hawaii’s reefs and many do not survive their trips for sale to aquarium owners.

But the Intermediate Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that commercial collectors of fish destined for aquariums are not involved in the type of business requiring environmental assessments, like construction companies that build structures on land, West Hawaii Today reported on Friday.

Mandating environmental assessments for the aquarium fish permit holders “would create an unreasonable, impractical and absurd result,” said the opinion written by Judge Katherine G. Leonard.

Hawaii’s so-called “aquarium fish collectors” already report details of their catches to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Environmentalists who filed the lawsuit will probably appeal it to Hawaii’s Supreme Court, said Summer Kupau-Odo, a lawyer with the Earthjustice environmental law group.

“It’s obviously not working,” Kupau-Odo said of regulations. “They’re obviously not utilizing all the tools they have to protect the environment.”

David Dart, an aquarium fish collector, said he was pleased with the ruling. He said existing regulations work and that the western Hawaii fisheries that supply 70 percent the state’s fish destined for aquariums are sustainable.

Environmentalists opposed to aquarium fish want to shut down the business and “keep hitting us from different angles,” Dart said. “They have a personal bias against keeping a fish as a pet.”

The state attorney general’s office, which represented the Department of Land and Natural Resources, was pleased with the outcome of the case, said spokesman James Walther.

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  • These guys are rapists of the ocean. I have watched them destroy coral reefs in Kaneohe Bay and take all the fish stock. To this day Kaneohe Bay reefs have not recovered the numbers of tropical fish. As you call your local politician, they say “we don’t want to destroy an industry”. WHAT THE

  • How are aquarium fish collectors any different than other local fishermen who “rape the reef”? What about surrounding huge schools of akule with nets, or taking scores of tiny aku and other tuna while trolling? How about all our large tuna that end up in Japan while tuna prices in the local market skyrocket as local supplies dwindle? Perhaps there should be “environmental assessments” for those practices, too. Why target just the local aquarium fish collectors?

  • Have you guys ever met an aquarium fisherman? They’re ordinary working people like you and I – not greedy and nobody’s getting rich off of it. They care a great deal about the ocean – of the fish disappear they’ll be out of a job. Small reef fish aren’t being depleted – the number of fish caught by this fishery is small relative to how many are out there, and science has shown that their numbers aren’t declining. As far as fishing goes in Hawaii, aquarium fish are relatively well regulated and the activity itself has very low impact. Please think and try to see things from other peoples’ perspective before you call them rapists.

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