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Judge Lifts Hawai’i Aquarium Fish Permit Ban

A Hawaiʻi Circuit Court judge lifted an injunction prohibiting the issuance of aquarium fish permits for the West Hawai‘i Regional Fishery Management Area today. However, this doesn’t mean that commercial aquarium fishing can immediately resume in West Hawaiʻi. Accepting a contested, and what Shark Stewards believes to be inadequate, Environmental Impact Statement, the decision returns the management of the State’s aquatic resources in the West Hawai‘i Regional Fishery Management Area back to the DLNR.

Source: Big Island Video News

After the court ruling, the Hawaiʻi Department of the Attorney General and the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources issued a joint news release explaining the latest development:

Hawaiʻi AG / DLNR joint news release
on January 30, 2023

Today, Hawaiʻi Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey P. Crabtree lifted an injunction in a case filed by opponents of commercial aquarium fishing, prohibiting the issuance or renewal of aquarium fish permits to commercial collectors pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) § 188-31 in the West Hawai‘i Regional Fishery Management Area (WHRFMA). An injunction concerning the issuance or renewal of aquarium fish permits in the rest of the State of Hawaiʻi remains in effect.

The injunction, in the Umberger case, was lifted because an environmental review pursuant to the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act (HEPA) is complete for the WHRFMA.

During the hearing, lead counsel for the State, Deputy Attorney General Melissa Goldman, reminded the parties and the public that aquarium fishing in West Hawai‘i is not allowed simply because the injunction regarding the issuance or renewal of aquarium fish permits to commercial collectors pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes § 188-31 is lifted as to West Hawaii. No aquarium fishing permits have yet been considered or issued for WHRFMA by the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), and the lifting of the injunction in the WHRFMA does not permit the immediate resumption of commercial aquarium fishing either in the WHRFMA or anywhere else in Hawaiʻi.

In response to today’s ruling, Deputy Attorney General Goldman states: “Today’s decision returns the management of the State’s aquatic resources in the West Hawai‘i Regional Fishery Management Area back to the DLNR, now that the environmental review process for West Hawai‘i is complete. Today’s decision does not itself authorize any aquarium fishing. That question may now be taken up by the DLNR, which is the agency charged with managing the State’s aquatic resources.”

Anyone who engages in commercial aquarium collection without the required permit in the West Hawai‘i management area or elsewhere in the State will be cited, and DLNR will pursue enforcement to the fullest extent authorized by law.