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Hawai’i DAR Makes Move to Support Aquarium Trade

The March 24 Hawai’i BLNR meeting reviewing aquarium fishing off the West side of the island of Hawaii. The Board, which oversees permitting and fishing in State waters, issued a directive to the Department of Aquatic Resources which manages and enforces regulations, to develop a plan to consider permits for collectors of reef fish supplying the recreational aquatrium trade.

Commercial and recreational aquarium collecting remain closed in the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area (WHRFMA). In addition, commercial aquarium collecting remains closed statewide. The lifting of the injunction only means that the process for obtaining aquarium permit(s) may proceed for those who have already complied with the environmental review requirements of Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) chapter 343, also known as the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act (HEPA).

According to the DAR, they are not accepting aquarium permit applications. In addition, collectors first must complete the HEPA requirements in order to apply.

On December 8, 2023, the Board of Land and Natural Resources (Board) unanimously accepted the petition to enact rules to close the aquarium pet trade statewide and directed the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), which opposed the petition, to begin that rule process and public hearings.

Four months later with no action on the rules, on Friday, April 12, DAR will:

  • Present a plan to the Board for re-opening West Hawaiʻi to commercial aquarium collection (Agenda Item F.2)
  • Ask the Board for permission to entirely rewrite the rule they adopted unanimously so that it allows aquarium collection instead of prohibiting it – all under the guise of “seeking clarification.” (Agenda Item F.3)

If DARs efforts on behalf of the aquarium trade are not defeated next Friday, DAR plans to ask the Board (in May or June) to issue AQ permits for West Hawaiʻi.

Please submit testimony in strong OPPOSITION to DARs plan to reopen our reefs to the destructive aquarium trade (instructions below). You can either rename and resubmit your testimony from December supporting the petition for rulemaking to ban the trade, or draft something new expressing why you believe this destructive trade should never be allowed back on our reefs.

Sample talking points:

DARs West Hawaiʻi Aquarium Plan (Item F.2)

  • DARs briefing document:
    • Completely fails to even mention the negative impacts of the proposed aquarium collection, just as the trade’s deeply flawed EIS failed to
    • Fails to disclose the 80% – 120% reduction in yellow tang abundance in areas where collection occurred
    • Fails to disclose that the proposed level of take exceeds that taken by subsistence, recreational, and commercial fishers, combined
    • Excludes any discussion of, or even a reference to, major cultural concerns, enforcement challenges, or climate change

DARs Request to Redraft the Rule (Item F.3)

  • Please uphold the December 8 vote and begin the rule process to end the trade
  • The trade inherently conflicts with local culture and native Hawaiian values, including pono fishing practices to only take what is needed
  • Hawaiʻi’s 46 moku that make up the entire state Aha Moku oppose AQ collecting
  • A published cost/benefit analysis shows Hawaiʻi residents receive ZERO benefits from the AQ trade, but suffer ALL the costs
  • Scientists forecast that we’ll lose 70% of our reefs by 2030 due to climate change
  • Scientists agree that reefs need more herbivores if they are to have a fighting chance; and, that DARs herbivore rules for food fish are not strong enough
  • Any legal collection only provides cover for even more illegal poaching that continues even today!

Please email your testimony to the Board ASAP.

PRIORITY ACTION 1 – WRITTEN TESTIMONY submitted by Thursday morning, April 11: 


Email Subject:
 April 12; Agenda Items F.2 and F.3 Testimony

Email Body: Easy & powerful testimony:  give your name, town and island, and a few heartfelt sentences, including why you believe the Board should:

  • Uphold the December 8 unanimous Board vote directing DAR to begin rulemaking
  • Direct DAR to hold the required public hearings on the rules now
  • Disregard DARs fatally flawed West Hawaiʻi plan to reopen the trade in its entirety!

ACTION 2 – SPREAD THE WORD:  Please forward this email to your friends and family and share on social media.

See full meeting agenda with Zoom link/instructions for providing remote testimony HERE.
Monitor meeting progress via YouTube livestream here.

The meeting begins at 9:00, and though not in our hands, we will request that the issue be moved up on the agenda.

Mahalo nui,
Rene Umberger
Executive Director