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International Waters: PIJAC Urges Approval of Hawaiian Collection Proposals

Posted: Jan. 15, 2013, 3:00 p.m. EST


By John Dawes
Could we be heading for a situation regarding marine ornamental fish collection in Hawaii that the trade and all other stakeholders find workable and acceptable? It might seem unlikely, recalling the many disputes that have taken place over this resource in recent years, but the answer is: It appears so.

On Dec. 5, 2012, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) held a public hearing to receive comments regarding new marine ornamental fish regulations being tabled for West Hawaii and Oahu. Written testimony was due Dec. 19, 2012. The results are supposed to be presented to the DLNR board this month.

In a Pet Alert issued on Dec. 4, 2012, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) stated: “These proposed rules are supported by most aquarium fishermen in the Hawaiian ornamental industry. They believe that the proposed changes benefit not only the resource, but also the industry. The North American industry participants should embrace the proposed management of the fishery as well. Supporting these new and amended rules will benefit the long-term health of the marine resources the industry and the state depend on. Support also will provide a viable future for a proactively managed fishery and ensure continued trade in marine aquarium fish from Hawaiian waters.”

Yellow tang
Oahu fishers may collect up to 100 yellow tangs of certain sizes per person, per day, while those in West Hawaii have no bag limits, but they do have size restrictions. Photo by John Dawes
This is the first time that circumstances warranted such a positive statement from the organization. Past proposals have been so lacking in objectivity and commonsense, and so draconian, that there was little to commend them. This time, however, things are significantly different, although there remains room for debate, especially regarding some of the bag quotas for the most common species, as well as some of the species not included in the West Hawaii permitted list. Still, should the proposals be approved, they will lay the foundations for further constructive dialogue.

At long last, for example, the often-mentioned ‘White List’ of species that can be collected and exported has been drawn up for West Hawaii. There are no major surprises here, because all the most popular species are listed, headed, of course, by the yellow tang (Zebrasoma flavescens). According to these proposals, size and bag limits would be set for three of the species on the 40-species list:

• Yellow tang (Z. flavescens): Only five fish per person, per day may be collected for specimens measuring less than 2 in. or more than 4.5 in. in total length.

• Goldring surgeonfish or kole (Ctenochaetus strigosus): Only five fish measuring more than 4 in. may be collected per person, per day.

• Achilles tang (Acanthurus achilles): Only 10 fish per person, per day would be allowed.

These measures primarily are arrived at maintaining brood stocks and, in the case of the yellow tang, protecting very small fish from the stresses of collection and transportation. No size or bag limits are included for the other 37 species on the ‘White List’ for West Hawaii. However, no collection whatsoever would be allowed in a “1,500-ft. section of Ka’ohe Bay (Pebble Beach), South Kona” which would act as a Fish Replenishment Area (FRA).

On Oahu, bag limits have been set for six species:

• Yellow tang: 100 specimens per person, per day.

• Kole or goldring surgeonfish: 75 specimens per person, per day.

• Potter’s angel (Centropyge potteri): 50 specimens per person, per day.

• Naso tang (Naso lituratus): 50 specimens per person, per day.

• Moorish idol (Zanclus cornutus): 25 specimens per person, per day.

• Achilles tang: 10 specimens per person, per day.

There also are size limits:

• Yellow tang: no more than six specimens measuring less than 1.5 inches may be collected per day; similarly for specimens measuring more than 5 inches.

• Kole: similarly for specimens measuring more than 5 inches.

• Cleaner wrasse (Labroides phthirophagus): no more than six specimens of any size.

• Bandit angelfish (Apolemichthys arcuatus): no more than two fish measuring more than 5.5 inches may be collected per day.

Further, no ornate butterflyfish (Chaetodon ornatissimus), oval butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunulatus) or reticulated butterflyfish (Chaetodon reticulatus) of any size may be collected.

In addition to the species restrictions, there are net and vessel limits for the fisheries. Nonetheless, it appears that the Hawaiian ornamental fishery feels that it can work within these frameworks. In PIJAC’s view, “While not perfect, these proposed rules reflect proactive and cooperative efforts by the DLNR and the Aquarium Fish Fishery to regulate and manage the state’s near-shore fisheries. While the Aquarium Fish Fishery in Hawaii is already one of the best-managed fisheries in the entire state and in North America, supporting additional oversight ensures it continues to be a sustainable and viable fishery in the future.”

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