The reef aquarium industry has been battling the efforts to ban the collection of Hawaiian fish for over ten years and earlier this year our worst fears came to pass. Without a shred of evidence or any tangible environmental impact surveys showing harm to local fish populations the collection of ornamental fish was banned in Hawaii.
The Hawaii ornamental fish trade is one of the best studied, most heavily managed fisheries in the world and sure they catch a boat load of yellow tangs but this fish species has shown sharp population increases in the open, closed and Marine Life Conservation District areas of the management area for the last twenty years. The closure of ornamental fish is punitive and without merit since aquarium fish collectors operate under the same commercial fishing permits as food fishing companies yet they harvest a fraction of the amount.
If misguided environmentalists can shut down a small industry with a paucity of data to support their emotional pleas when copious scientific data doesn’t support their position, then who knows what other sustainable natural resources might be next on the chopping block. It’s a slippery slope to shut down a small, human powered harvest when much larger and mechanized industries under the same umbrella are unaffected.
We respect the wishes of the Hawaiian people and the need to be cautious with certain species of vulnerable fish to be provided greater protections but shutting down family run businesses needs to be supported by robust data, not emotion or basic instincts. If you want to help overturn the collection ban, a new hearing regarding proposed changes to reopen the Hawaiian ornamental fishery will be held this Friday and all testimony needs to be received by June 24th, which is Thursday.
Please send your constructive thoughts via email to [email protected] and hopefully enough of us send compelling testimonies to move the needle in our favor.