It is time for the State of Hawai‘i to stop the aquarium fish trade. With our reefs degrading from overfishing, pollution and overuse, it is economically and morally unconscionable that a select few are personally benefitting. My reasons for supporting this bill are:
1. As a marine professional, I have personally observed the impact this trade has on our reefs. Every fish has an important role to play in this delicate ecosystem. If we remove fish, then it should be only for human consumption and sustenance. Putting more stress on our challenged reef ecosystems for a hobby is, at the least, poor management of our marine resources.
2. The Division of Aquatic Resources has it tough enough trying to manage a sustainable fishery for human consumption and sustenance. Manpower and expenses devoted to the aquarium fish trade—not counting the need for more enforcement—is an unnecessary drain on our depleted state budget.
3. Many of the reef fish that the collectors are taking are the very ones that are cherished by snorkelers, SCUBA divers and other enthusiasts. The removal of hundreds of thousands of yellow tangs, just to name one that is being harvested, makes a tremendous difference to the aesthetic beauty of our corals reefs, thus lessening visitor’s experience.
4. I am a marine biologist who volunteers with state, federal and university researchers. I devote the rest of my time to educating the public about marine conservation and human impacts on reefs. I have found aquarium fish collecting especially hard to justify. We teach to cherish this marine resource and to minimize their personal impact on our reefs. Can we ignore this unnecessary stress to valuable resources?
Finally, as a taxpaying citizen, I would appreciate if our elected and appointed officials make a decision in favor of the greater good and not a select few. Stop this trade and let our reefs return to a more natural state of greater diversity—you will be sending a message to all Hawaiian residents the need to cherish and conserve our marine resources and protect our reefs for our children.