HAWAII BILL TO OUTLAW SALE OF HAWAIIAN AQUATIC SPECIES
** HEARING SET FOR FEBRUARY 3, 2011 **
Coments from an Aquarium Fish Diver
Here we go again... For the record, I'm a commercial aquarium fisherman.
A better idea, don't support this thing. Plain and simple, it's an attempt by one special interest group to eliminate another for personal reasons. Obviously the ocean could use better management (not only fishing, but many other issues), but simply banning one industry, on behalf of another, is just not right.
The thing is, the aquarium fishery has supported hundreds of people in Hawaii for decades - in some cases much longer than the dive tour industry. These are legitimate businesses - permitted and regulated by the state. This doesn't just include fishermen like myself - there are pet stores, dealers, tank maintenance people, and many others that rely on the aquarium industry for a living. These are local families - we have bills to pay, kids to feed and send to school, and elderly parents to take care of. We depend on the ocean just as much as everybody else, and it's entirely in our best interest that our resources are sustained - if the fish are gone, we'll be out of a job.
What's more, most people in the world will never be able to go diving - if it weren't for aquariums the majority of people on mainland or other parts of the world would never be ale to see and enjoy these fish. Even in Hawaii a lot of people aren't able to go diving for a variety of reasons (health, age, etc.) You can't say that one group of people has a right to enjoy the ocean and another doesn't.
As someone who's been fishing here on Oahu for years, I've never seen any conflict between myself and the dive tours, recreational divers, or snorkelers. I know a good number of people in the local dive industry and have worked with them for years. They know what I do and don't have a problem with it - I respect their business and they return the favor. It's a no-brainer - obviously people will get upset if they go to a dive site and a fish they saw before is gone, so we're careful to leave those areas alone. We live on an island, and what goes around comes around - people have to work together to survive. There's more than enough ocean for everybody to share, and there's absolutely no reason why we can't do so.
Nor have I, or any of the other fishermen here, seen any long term decline in numbers of aquarium fish. We've been diving the same reefs for more than 4 decades, and the fish always return year after year. If this supposed depletion was true, we'd have been out of business long ago. The state has been monitoring the fishery since the early 1970s, and there has never been any declining trend. The one thing that did have an effect on the fish population was when Hurricane Iwa wiped out a large portion of Oahu's reef in the early 1980s. Since that time, much of the reef has recovered and, despite the fact that we were still catching fish, their populations have rebounded remarkably well.
The one area where biologists are (justifiably) concerned is with the Big Island yellow tang fishery, which is quite sizable. However, it's not unmanaged - the state already has a number of restrictions on the books, including very large no-take zones that encompass most of the popular dive sites. That in itself basically means that the species will never become depleted, but the state is currently in the process of introducing a number of new regulations (with the cooperation of fishermen) to further ensure that the fishery remains viable and can coexist with other ocean users. I expect the take will be limited or reduced at some time in the near future, but it's no reason to completely shut down the fishery - there needs to be a compromise so everyone can survive.
So, if you want to do the right thing, don't support this bill. It's good to be concerned about the ocean, but extreme measures like this don't benefit anybody. If you live in Hawaii, try getting to know some of us before you pass judgement - you'll see that we care about the ocean just as much as you do. If you live on the mainland, get to know some local aquarists and see their perspective. If you want to send testimony to the legislature, say that you support proper management of ocean resources, but a flat-out ban is the wrong way to go.
Issue Alert from Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council
Legislation pending in the Hawaii Senate Committee on Water, Land and Housing (Senate Bill 580) would prohibit any person, at any time, from knowingly or intentionally selling or offering to sell, for aquarium purposes, aquatic life taken from any Hawaiian waters.
The broad prohibition against selling aquatic species taken from Hawaiian waters would have limited exceptions. For example, persons “exercising a customary and traditional right for subsistence, cultural, or religious purposes” are exempt (subject to state regulation). Furthermore, the bill explicitly exempts the harvesting of aquatic species for human consumption or for sale for human consumption (including for use as bait), and would allow issuance of permits for aquatic species used for bona fide scientific or “public display” purposes.
For purposes of this act, the term “sell” is broadly defined to include the transfer, giving, or delivery to another person, as well as leaving, bartering, or exchanging aquatic species with another person, or the offer or agreement to do any of these things for consideration.
Persons violating this law would be subject to as much as $1,000 fine and thirty days imprisonment for a first offense, up to a $2,000 fine and sixty days imprisonment for a second offense and a fine of up to $3,000 and ninety days imprisonment for subsequent violations. Additionally, violators can be subject to an administrative penalty of up to $1,000 for each aquatic life specimen sold.
The bill also bans the taking of aquatic species for aquarium purposes without a permit. Permits would be issued only to persons who can satisfy the department that they possess facilities to and can maintain fish and other aquatic life alive and in reasonable health, and who can satisfy the department that the methods of capture, husbandry, and transport are humane and will not result in substantial injury to or death of the taken aquatic life.
Regardless of the possession of a permit, however, it would be illegal to sell the aquatic species, even if taken in Hawaiian waters legally.
While PIJAC supports the reasonable regulation of the aquatic aquarium trade, an outright ban on the aquarium trade has no rational basis.
All persons concerned about preserving the right to keep pets should contact the Senate Committee on Water, Land and Housing in advance of the hearing on Senate Bill 580! The bill is scheduled to be heard by that committee on Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 1:15 p.m. in Conference Room 225 of the state Capitol (415 South Beretania Street). Testimony must be sent to: WLHTestimony@Capitol.hawaii.gov.
Additionally, any person able to attend this hearing should do so in order to voice your opposition to this extreme proposal.
Click here to view the actual text of this bill. For questions or additional information about SB 580, contact PIJAC’s Michael Maddox via email at Michael@pijac.org or by phone at 202-452-1525 ext 106. You may also visit the Breaking News page of PIJAC’s website for updates on this bill and other initiatives impacting pet owners and the pet trade.
Full Text and Status: SB580