The battle to outright ban the collection of aquarium fish has rapidly been reaching a fever pitch, with almost daily revelations and news being added to the controversy. Ret Talbot recently spent time in Hawaii, writing for both CORAL Magazine and MASNA covering the numerous ongoing developments. While he has lately been keeping us apprised of recent developments in O’ahu to adopt similar proactive regulation of the aquarium trade beyond what is already in place (similar to the “White List”), the battle opened up on yet another front, this time in the garden island of Kauai.
From the Honolulu Civil Beat on 11-18-2011:
The Kauai County Council passed an ordinance this week urging a statewide ban on the catching of Hawaiian ocean fish for the aquarium trade, echoing a similar resolution that passed on the Big Island last month.
Both measures – which are non-binding – will become bills that will be debated by the Legislature this session, which begins in January.
Catching fish for sale to aquarium buyers has become increasingly controversial, with critics arguing that it damages reef ecosystems.
There seems to be an increasing disconnect between logic, fact, and reason on this topic, with the aquarium trade under fire for damaging reef ecosystems. Sadly, Talbot sums up the issue quite succinctly in a post about Kauai’s Aquarium Trade Ban; “Blatant Misuse of Data to Frame an Ethical Argument as One about Sustainability”. As aquarists, we’re left wondering how facts and science are being ignored in favor of scapegoating, but when you read general public commentary such as “Good! Put an end to this silly practice”, or “With all of the technology we have we should be raising these fish in labs, not taking them from the reef” (the latter coming from, of all places, a Spearfishing Message Board), we perhaps shouldn’t be surprised. Such commentary suggests that the general public is quite ill-informed about the aquarium hobby and industry, and is all too eager to jump on a moral bandwagon in a modern day witch hunt.
But perhaps even more surprising is the new media’s failure to even pick up on the fact that gross misinformation is being used in these efforts to shut down the trade – this even when Hawaii’s own governmental organizations are willing to go on record that the trade is not in need of being shut down, and in fact, is sustainable.
It remains to be seen what Kauai’s resolution will mean for 2012, but with 2 out of 5 Hawaiian counties now passing resolutions to ban the aquarium harvest entirely, the debate isn’t going away and it would seem that public pressure against aquarium collection is mounting. We’re increasingly concerned that the prophecy of the aquarium industry making an “easy scapegoat” is in fact coming. It remains to be seen whether the Hawaiian State Government will simply give the uninformed masses what they think they want, or if they’ll dig in deeper and finally apply reason and logic to this moral debate thinly veiled behind false allegations. Stay tuned – you can be sure there is more to come.