Hawaii is the 3rd largest supplier of reef wildlife for U.S. saltwater aquariums. Every year around 25-27 million of reef animals are collected on Hawaii reefs and shipped out for sale in the aquarium hobby trade. 98% of aquarium fish are wild caught. Many of these fish die as they are caught in nets, transferred and transported to aquarists and pet shops in the mainland US. It is estimated that over 90% of these fish die within one year of capture. Many of these fish suffer from malnutrition, are transported in aircraft in bags that fill with their waste and many die during transport.
Fish harvesters are stripping reefs of important grazers that keep coral reefs healthy and support larger fish and the balance of marine ecosystems. Damaging techniques using poke sticks, nets or even illegal chemicals that stun the fish, leave broken and dead coral in their wake. These fish are important for cleaning algae that can overgrow coral placing reefs already at risk to sea surface change and human impacts at even greater risk. Airlines loaded with styrofoam coolers of suffering sea animals are exacerbating climate change while adding to more destruction of coral reefs.
Hawai’i has proclaimed all sharks are protected from fishing, yet sharks rely on healthy fish and coral reefs to survive. With Hawaiian cultural leaders, In Defense of Animals, The Dark Hobby and local activists we are calling for a complete halt to commercial. collection and export of reef fish.”David McGuire, Director Shark Stewards
Kona dive tourism brings in millions of more jobs and tax revenues than reef extraction. The state of Hawai’i recently passed legislation to protect sharks (manō), yet disregard the fish and reefs the sharks need to survive. Divers want to see healthy reefs with abundant fish, including the sharks that rely on lower trophic levels to survive, and they will support a sustainable dive tourism economy while protecting the reef ecology.
The State Board of Land and Natural Resources, (BLNR) through a political punt, has de facto approved an Environmental Assessment report submitted by the mainland corporate pet lobby to continue collecting fish in the Western Hawai’i Reef Management Area along the Kona coast. This EA lacks adequate baseline data and regurgitates a flawed study that has been previously rejected by the BLNR. Using nets, sticks and other methods, these collectors are harming the reef itself as well as altering the balance among species on the reefs, all for entertainment. Fish can be bred in captivity to satisfy the aquarium hobbyist’s thirst, and in many cases most of these animals simply cannot survive in a glass prison.
With local Hawaiian leaders, the undersigned call upon the BLNR to reject any newly proposed permits and phase out all existing collection permits in the West Hawaii Regional Fisheries Management Area of Kona.