Aquarium fishing should no longer be allowed

After reading Christopher Hurst’s story in The Garden Island (Saturday, April 16) I was finally motivated to write this letter. I will be completely honest — I want collecting fish from our already threatened reefs to be made illegal.

Right now it’s only against the law to collect certain threatened species, but I firmly believe all marine species belong in the ocean to live a natural life and for everyone to enjoy watching and photographing.

If it were possible to breed such species in captivity, home saltwater tanks would be fine with me, but very few species have been successfully “farmed.”

I snorkel in the Morgan Ponds at Lydgate Park and can attest that fish have been taken despite signs declaring all types of fishing in the ponds to be illegal. Last year, for the first time in the 10 years I’ve lived here, there were two Hawaiian Domino Damselfish in the pond.

This type of fish tends to choose a rock or coral head and stay there, so, when I saw those two little fish I knew they wouldn’t last long before someone disregarded the law and took them to sell on the aquarium market. They were there for two weeks or less before they disappeared.

I watched a Yellowtail Coris and a Pearl Wrasse grow into lovely adults and then disappear overnight. Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t believe that fish come and go from the ponds freely. The walls are very tight and thick, so an easy exit seems unlikely to me. I can’t be certain that the last two didn’t leave the pond on their own, but I can say for certain that I see most of the same fish for years.

As for having a home saltwater aquarium, a very responsible friend tried to maintain one but gave up because almost all of the fish died within a year. This was unacceptable to her as an environmentalist and animal lover.

A few years ago, my husband spent some time in Queen’s Hospital where there’s a marine aquarium in the cafeteria. At first I thought it would be relaxing to have lunch near the tank and enjoy watching the fish — until I saw a dead surgeonfish lying on the bottom and a picked-clean skeleton floating on the surface. The hope of relaxation became depression, and I avoided even looking at the tank thereafter.

It is estimated that 98 percent of fish collected from the ocean die in shipment or within a year of being sold. This is a horrifying statistic and should cast serious doubt on continuing to allow fish collecting to be legal here in Hawaii or anywhere else on the planet.

•••

Chris Queen is a resident of Kapaa.

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