Council upholds BLNR’s rejection of aquarium fishing EIS

  • This June 25, 2014 file photo shows yellow tang aquarium fish swimming in a tank at a store in Aiea, Oahu. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy, File)

A May decision by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources to maintain a ban on aquarium fish collection off West Hawaii was recently upheld by the state Environmental Council.

The council’s decision effectively leaves intact a moratorium on commercial aquarium collection along the Kona and Kohala coasts. It also affirms the board’s 7-0 rejection of an environmental impact statement produced by aquarium fishers to reopen West Hawaii’s coastal waters to 10 commercial aquarium fishermen.

“The industry used faulty data and failed to consider cumulative impacts to the environment, including how the effects of climate change interact with the severe losses of herbivore abundance to this wildlife trade,” said Rene Umberger, executive director of For the Fishes, a reef wildlife advocacy group. “Thankfully, the council agreed with the land board and did the right thing under the law.”

The EIS produced by the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council suggested issuing permits to 10 commercial aquarium fishers inside the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area (WHRFMA). The only proposed bag limit was for Achilles tang, while slot limits were posed for certain sizes of yellow tang and kole. A lack of data regarding the number of fish that would be removed was of particular concern to the BLNR.

The Hawaii Supreme Court halted aquarium fishing on Sept. 6, 2017 by ruling collection without environmental review violates the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act; no permits have been issued for the WHRFMA since.

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