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help needed to end tropical aquarium fish collection in hawaii


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#1 derway

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 09:33 AM

Aloha Friends,

Our campaign to protect Hawaii's reef wildlife from the aquarium trade is now laser focused on a commercial ban through the Abercrombie administration.

We need letters to the Governor asking him to end the practice of taking Hawaii's reef wildlife for sale in the mainland and international aquarium hobby. We need these letters sent ASAP, please (snail mail is preferred, but email ok, too).

The Governor has heard our concerns with the trade's harmful environmental, ethical (inhumane/cruel), economic and cultural impacts. He knows the trade is state subsidized with zero public benefit but does privately benefit ~50 full time collectors, statewide. He knows why current and future "resource management" is costing us and fails to address our concerns. He knows that our wildlife is needlessly harmed and sacrificed for a disposable pet hobby.

He knows why a ban is the best option.

Now he needs to hear it from you. Your voice, your words - from the heart. Just a few short sentences will do.

Mail to:

Honorable Governor Neil Abercrombie
Hawaii State Capitol 5th floor
415 South Beretania Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

Email to the Gov's contact person for this issue, Wendy Clerinx:
wendy.clerinx@hawaii.gov
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#2 xariatay

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 09:09 PM

A website link would be useful to spread the message!
Would emails from non Hawaiian work??
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#3 derway

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 09:13 PM

Hi Cat.

All I know is in that message. I live in CA, and got that from some friends in hawaii. As far as I know there is no web site.

As it says there, we can send in postal mail, or email.

If we are tourists, who have, or might visit hawaii, we can have an impact.
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#4 xariatay

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 09:26 PM

I found these! http://www.staradver...rium_trade.html

Groups seek to protect fish from aquarium trade
By Associated Press

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Mar 02, 2011


HONOLULU A group of marine conservationists is calling on Gov. Neil Abercrombie to bar collecting exotic fish from Hawaii's reefs for sale in the aquarium trade.

Groups including the Humane Society, Hawaii Reef Wildlife Advocates, The Snorkel Bob Foundation and For the Fishes said Monday that Abercrombie should issue an executive order declaring the reefs off-limits.

ON THE NET:
SB580: http://capitol.hawaii.gov/

They said they're turning to Abercrombie because legislative efforts to prevent reef fishing have fallen short.

A bill that would have prohibited the selling of aquatic life for aquarium purposes was significantly changed earlier this month to remove the ban.

Instead, the measure now calls for establishing two new marine life conservation districts on Maui.


http://www.humanesoc...um=content-1459
http://www.slideshar...impacts-4852485
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#5 scaper

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 05:43 AM

Don,

Thanks for this information! I have sent an e-mail to the contact you provided.

Pat

#6 derway

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 11:41 AM

Hi Pat.

To answer your question from the other thread, which is on topic here..

The jewels are really gone.

Tinker's butterflies used to be at every dive site, down below 80-100 feet. I can't remember seeing one in a several years now.

Same with hawaiian lion fish/turkey fish. Just gone. Frogfish and leaf scorpians are almost gone.

There used to vast schools of yellow tang, and raccoon butterflies, now they are there in dribs and drabs.

Black coral is almost impossible to find any more. I personally saw 2 guys on a boat, breaking up coral with steel polls, and netting the fish. When I tried to take pictures of them, I was threatened with a pole, and felt my life was in danger.

Huge bags of thousands of dead reef fish were found 6-8 months ago, left in a dumpster.
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#7 DerekB

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 02:35 PM

I've been living on Oahu for the last 4 years. The lack of environmental consideration here on the island is appalling. No matter how much I voice my concerns no one seems to listen.
If you go to the boat ramps on the west side of the island early in the morning, you can see "commercial" fisherman shoveling poached reef fish from their boat.

Hawaii has nearly no regulation on fishing or capture, and what few regulations they have are barely enforced.


What Derway says is true, Hawaii has been raped and pillared, only a wasteland of improper environmental management remains.

#8 davephdv

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 05:10 PM

From my observation, just stopping the commercial trade is not enough. I was diving there and met up with a group of personal collectors. They took about 10 to 15 fish that I could see for their own aquariums. Are they going to try to stop that as well?
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#9 derway

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Posted 12 July 2011 - 11:27 AM

Hey Dave. The folks collecting for their own aquariums don't try to get 1000 yellow tang, at once..

So their net impact on the reef, should not be that significant.

I'm pretty sure the legislation would not try to stop it, but if we all wrote the governor, with that intent, perhaps we could sway the thinking.
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#10 exallias

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 10:17 AM

Here's the reality of this situation. There have been attempts to stop tropical fish collecting in Hawaii for over 20 years and they always fail. The State of Hawaii will never close a legitimate fishing business, and especially not during a recession. That will never happen. And even if it was not a recession, the fact is that not one of the species targeted by tropical fish collectors is endangered or threatened so there won't be any special efforts for their protection - not yet anyway. The real basis of this conflict is between users: divers vs. collectors, and the government is not going to take sides in this kind of dispute (lip service perhaps, but no commitment). So, change tactics. Support marine conservation districts instead where all fish are protected and divers can view them.

Edited by exallias, 25 July 2011 - 10:25 AM.


#11 Rocha

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 01:54 PM

I am with the poster above, supporting the creation of marine protected areas, especially in places like Hawaii, will be always much better than creating new legislation.

On a side note, collection for the aquarium trade in Hawaii is not nearly as bad as the OP makes it look. Hawaii has one of the best managed and monitored aquarium fish industries in the world. About 90% of all the aquarium fish exported from Hawaii are collected at the Big Island, by about 10 companies. Those companies created (and self-enforce) a very effective network of marine reserves along the coast of the Big Island.

In addition, 75% of all the reefs (and therefore fish) in Hawaii are completely safe from fishing/pouching/collecting because they are inside the boundaries of the very well protected Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which is one of the largest marine reserves in the planet. Frankly, I think there is no need for such a drastic measure as banning all fish collection in Hawaii.

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#12 UMpg

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 09:04 AM

Great points Rocha.
Another thought was if the relatively well monitored fishery in Hawaii is shut down, it would place a greater demand on the more poorly run fisheries in SE Asia. Let's face it, the marine aquarium industry isn't going anywhere, and there will always be a demand for Pacific fish, and the hole caused by shutting down Hawaii will have to be supplemented from somewhere. Is it better to have them collected from Hawaii, where there is some monitoring and control, or from Indonesia/Philippines with cyanide and dynamite?

Edited by UMpg, 26 July 2011 - 09:05 AM.


#13 derway

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 11:26 AM

This is completely misleading to claim the noble fish collectors got together and enforced a very effective network of marine reserves along the coast of the Big Island. This is the opposite of the truth that I have seen. The MPAs were forced on the collectors completely against their will, at court order, and they still squabble about the boundaries, and trying to get things more to their liking. I was at a west hawaii fisheries council meeting, just last december, when the representatives of the collectors were playing dumb, and dragging their feet, and pretending they didn't know what had been discussed every month for years now.

They keep trying MPA swaps, when they clean out an area, and they want access to areas they have not cleaned out.

About 35% of the kona shore is SUPPOSED to be protected, and it has been that way for 10 or 15 years. Yet there have been no dramatic increases in the quantity of fish, back even to the way it was 20 years ago, when I first started diving over there.

I have not seen a single hawaiian lion fish, in many many years there, and they used to be under every arch. The yellow tang are still decimated in numbers. No tinkers butterflies any more. And no one can even keep them alive in captivity.

The MPAs have failed, likely ignored. I have seen collectors breaking up coral with big steel poles, to capture fish. This is not a sustainable well managed industry, even a little bit!

Here is the result of this "well managed industry", over 600 fish, collected for aquariums, found dead in a dumpster:

http://www.forthefis.../Home_Page.html

The National Monument is all very well, but completely irrelevant to anything you can dive from any of the islands. Better to restrict the fish collectors to the far northwest hawaiian atolls.

Stopping collecting in kona, or increasing the MPAs to 70-80% is needed. And enforcement is needed.
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#14 Rocha

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 01:51 PM

Increasing the MPAs to 70-80% is needed. And enforcement is needed.


Increasing MPAs I agree with, completely stopping collection I do not, it will just increase pouching and illegal fishing. The same way you consider the aquarium industry a "disposable pet hobby" many people consider traveling thousands of miles to dive in exotic locations a needless hobby that leaves a huge carbon footprint, not to mention how much we spend in scuba and photo gear. Believe it or not, most people that have reef tanks do take care of their fish, and removing a yellow tang from the reef is not nearly as bad as removing a top predator like an Ulua.

I have recently reviewed all of the information on yellow tang collection in Hawaii, and the catch is a stable 500,000 fish per year for almost the last 20 years. There were fishery-independent studies (visual surveys) carried out in the same time frame that found no evidence for decline in yellow tang population. We (humans) are simply replacing the top predator in the area (Ulua), and the yellow tang populations seem to not be suffering.

Now I find your last statement on sending the collectors to one of the most pristine reef environments in the world very disturbing, but luckily I know that is not going to happen. So you'd rather have collection impact a pristine reef than have it better controlled where it is now (and has been for very long)?

The monument is completely relevant for the question at hand though, the monument effectively protects 75% of Hawaii's reefs (and fishes).

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#15 xariatay

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 05:43 PM

Not sure about how many people who have aquariums actually love the ocean to travel across the globe to view fish in their natural habitats? :B): Lots of these fish go to display in businesses, restaurants, hospitals & likes...

Wonder how many of these collectors love the ocean? :huh: These fish are just their means to earn money...

Agree that earning $$ is important to everyone...

Don, I've written to the governor...

Edited by xariatay, 26 July 2011 - 05:44 PM.

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#16 Rocha

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 06:19 PM

All I am saying is that these petitions are a slippery slope. Today is stop aquarium collection (in a managed area, like it or not, it is the US of A, and it is much better managed than Indonesia and the Philippines), tomorrow it will be "stop flash photography because it stresses the fish", and I did see this one before. The day after it will be "stop all diving", and so on.

I am all for banning unregulated fish collection for example using cyanide in the Philippines, and that has gone down a lot, but still does happen.

By the way, you wouldn't believe how much good aquariums in public places (including hospitals, restaurants, etc) do. That is the only exposure to the ocean for a lot of people, and I personally know some that became much more aware of environmental issues just by being exposed to an aquarium in a public place.

I could go on for ever, but I will just give you one short example of why the aquarium trade is not as bad as it seems, especially in Hawaii. Take one of the OP's examples, Chaetodon tinkeri, this is a very valuable species, hard to collect, usually on deeper waters (80+ feet). They usually sell for $400 US dollars or more. The only reason they sell for that much is because only a few dozen (or less) make it to the shops every month. If an aquarium company "cleans up" the bottom and collects hundreds of these the price will drop like crazy and soon they will be selling for $40 instead of $400, this is simple supply and demand economics. So no company will flood the market like this, they self regulate. Aquarium fish are not like food fish. Oh, and by the way, I know many (at least 10) people that have kept these fish in their tanks for years. It's not like a person that just started a tank today will drop $400 in a fish...

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#17 derway

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 07:22 PM

Now I find your last statement on sending the collectors to one of the most pristine reef environments in the world very disturbing, but luckily I know that is not going to happen. So you'd rather have collection impact a pristine reef than have it better controlled where it is now (and has been for very long)?

The monument is completely relevant for the question at hand though, the monument effectively protects 75% of Hawaii's reefs (and fishes).


Hi Rocha,

Of course I was joking! The monument is several days travel from kona, so I figured that would slow them way down at least!!

The monument is not accessible to recreational divers.

I totally agree on the carbon footprint issues too. I have cut my driving in half, and cut my electrical usage as much as possible, and cut flying a whole lot, and pay for carbon offset every year, and more when I do fly.
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#18 Rocha

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 07:27 PM

I'm glad that we agree on something :B): I do think however that even instituting a simple fishing license in Hawaii would be better overall for the reef than banning the aquarium trade. I also dove in Hawaii a lot, and I can say with 100% certainty that weekend fishermen with three-prong spears do much more damage to the reef than the aquarium trade ever will...

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#19 cmhhawaii

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Posted 02 August 2011 - 12:14 PM

Just found this thread. Although I cannot add much to the compelling facts that have already been issued, I would like to share my opinion. I am a dive/snorkel boat captain in Oahu and have only worked here over the past 7 years. Despite the fact that my experience does not span the breadth of some others on this blog, I have been on the water more days than many. And, even in that short time, I have noticed a change in the presence of fish on the reef. Now... I understand that Oahu is probably the most overfished and decimated ecosystem in the hawaiian islands, but as I watch swarms of spearfisherman, aquarium collectors, and fisherman standing shoulder to shoulder on the shoreline, I can't help but be disheartened. Like others on this thread, I too have never seen the Hawaiian Lionfish and only once have I seen a harlequin shrimp. The only black coral I have ever seen was on Lanai and I get giddy if i see and Uhu over 2 lbs.

As for the aquarium collectors specifically, I have had an experience with a certain enterprising man that causes me to question the morality of the trade. As a scuba boat operator, we try to find a variety of dive sites to entertain our guests. In the interest of preserving the reef, we set moorings at each location that we find interesting, to avoid anchoring. There was one aquarium collector that would watch us, to determine where our new dive sites were. Once he found the new one, he would tie off to our mooring and collect fish for weeks. He would do this until he had removed all the more valuable fish from our new site. He followed us like this for several sites until we finally gave up. He used us to find the better fish populations, knowing that we were looking for the same thing he was. I feel partially responsible for opening an avenue for him to further deplete the fish stock. And further remorseful after seeing the volume that he removed from each site.

Now, I am sure that I can accredit some of my concerns of depleting fish stock to the ebb and flow of fish populations, but watching these guys hover over my favorite dive sites, plucking all of my little buddies out of the water is enough to make me want some action against them. But this issue is not restricted to aquarium collectors. Spearfishermen, rod and reel fishermen and even scuba divers do more than their fair share to contribute to the depletion of undersea ecosystems. I wish I could only count on my hands and feet the number of times I have had to ask a scuba diver to toss back a live cowry or beg them to stop kicking the reef.

Ultimately, my point is that aquarium collectors are certainly a problem, but there is a wide swath of individuals that collectively contribute to the depletion of this ecosystem to a far greater extent that any collector could. This is why I believe in the expansion AND ENFORCEMENT of marine preserves. It holds everyone accountable for the stewardship of the site, instead of only regulating those that we perceive as the problem. I watched marine preserves work in the Channel Islands at Anacapa. Life has a chance to recover in these areas and spill to their surroundings. It doesn't have to be a preserve the size of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, just a few safeharbors at along the coast where populations can flourish.

Another issue here is that the Hawaiian population holds a certain sense of entitlement (rightly so) to access the resource of the sea. There are very few out here that support regulation or licensing of a practice that they have passed down since before western contact. Arguably, aquarium collecting is not an ancient Hawaiian practice, but it represents a resource that their ancestors passed to them. I believe that this group exudes a much better attitude (at least on this island) about small marine preserves than they do about fishing licenses. Especially when you can point to the success of Hanauma Bay, this ecological protection method is slightly better received.

In addition, some feel that the unprotected areas have better fishing due to their proximity to a thriving reef. As a fisherman, I support a certain degree of regulation on fishing. However, I believe that these laws only keep the honest people honest and are difficult to enforce.

Ultimately, shutting down an area to any harvesting is the only way to effectively protect the life that resides.

Sorry for the long winded rant... just one captain's humble opinion.

#20 Rocha

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Posted 02 August 2011 - 01:19 PM

Ultimately, my point is that aquarium collectors are certainly a problem, but there is a wide swath of individuals that collectively contribute to the depletion of this ecosystem to a far greater extent than any collector could. This is why I believe in the expansion AND ENFORCEMENT of marine preserves. It holds everyone accountable for the stewardship of the site, instead of only regulating those that we perceive as the problem.


Well said, that is exactly what I think too. Creating (and effectively protecting) well designed marine reserves is much more useful than shutting down entire industries or activities. If we shut down the aquarium industry today we are just opening a precedent for somebody to shut down the diving industry (or_____ insert your activity here, everything has an impact) tomorrow. I am optimist enough to think that both can be done responsibly, hopefully still in our lifetime.

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