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International Waters: More Hawaiian Aquarium Bills on the Table

Posted: May 6, 2013, 7:30 p.m. EST

By John Dawes

West Hawaii and Oahu recently proposed several changes to their respective regulations regarding the collection and sale of marine life destined for home aquaria. The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) duly recommended its acceptance, believing the changes represented genuine, constructive contributions to the Hawaiian ornamental aquatic sector.

This appears to have been the relative calm before a new storm; further proposals are being tossed about. The Hawaiian House Committees were due to hear two bills.

  • House Bill 359 is aimed at providing "several enhanced tools to ensure compliance and monitoring of fishery activities within the West Hawaiian Regional Fishery Management Area."
  • House Bill 989 is aimed at establishing penalties for the unlawful taking of "saltwater or freshwater non-game fish, or any specimen of aquatic life."

Parrot Fish
If Senate Bill 1320 becomes law, collecting any parrot fish in Hawaiian waters will be illegal, except for scientific or educational purposes (pictured: stoplight parrot fish, Sparisoma viride, from the Caribbean). By John Dawes
PIJAC supports these bills, because both are designed to enhance regulatory mechanisms and should not adversely affect ornamental sector members that comply with applicable fishery regulations. However, the same can't be said for the other bills, though some might carry PIJAC and industry support.

Here, very briefly, are summaries of the latest bills on the table.

  • Senate Bill 374 would establish prohibitions, penalties and fines for selling aquatic life taken from Hawaiian waters for aquarium purposes. While allowing for the issuing of permits under certain conditions, it also would prohibit the sale, or the offering for sale, of aquarium life taken under an aquarium permit. (Also see House Bill 108, below.)
  • Senate Bill 378, the companion bill to House Bill 359, would authorize "administrative inspections within the West Hawaii management area."
  • Senate Bill 673 would determine whether fishing permits should continue to be issued by first requiring the Department of Land and Natural Resources to conduct an environmental assessment.
  •  Senate Bill 676 would prohibit the taking of aquarium fish from Hawaiian waters during the months of January, February, March, July, August and September, amounting to half the year.
  • Senate Bill 677 would prohibit the taking or harvesting of aquarium fish for commercial sale, although it would allow collection for scientific and public aquarium purposes.
  • Senate Bill 931 would come into force on Jan. 1, 2014, and would give each county the authority to "regulate aquarium fish found in each respective county's coastal waters, including prohibiting of taking, establishing limits on taking or otherwise managing aquarium fish populations found in its respective coastal waters."
  • Senate Bill 1320 would prohibit the collecting of any member of the parrot fish (subfamily, Scarinae*) beginning July 1, 2014, except for scientific or educational purposes. Penalties for third and consequent offenses can amount to $20,000 and/or be accompanied "by imprisonment of not more than one year."
  • House Bill 108 would make it illegal to take aquatic life for aquarium purposes without an appropriate permit. It also would prohibit the sale, or offering for sale, of aquatic life taken under an aquarium fish permit.
  • House Bill 185 aims "to create the dynamic management of the aquarium fishing industry by enhancing the department of land and natural resources' ability to regulate the aquarium fish industry in real-time." This is a sort of follow-on from the already-mentioned House Bill 359 relating to West Hawaii mentioned.
  • House Bill 710 would require the Hawaiian authorities to "streamline the permitting process and facilitate the restoration of Hawaiian fishponds."

*Although this bill refers to the subfamily Scarinae, most classifications, including FishBase, refer to parrot fishes as belonging to the family Scaridae.

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