Aquarium fishing headed to court

LIHUE — Issues surrounding aquarium fish collection are being taken to Hawaii’s Supreme Court after the Intermediate Court of Appeals sided with the state on permit issuance.

Citizens are challenging the procedure for acquiring a permit for aquarium fish extraction, claiming an environmental review is needed before the state allows people to remove fish from the reef.

“We appreciate the decision by the Intermediate Court of Appeals that DLNR does not need to conduct an environmental review before issuing permits to collect aquarium fish,” said Dan Dennison, spokesman from DLNR.

The Division of Aquatic Resources has been monitoring fish and aquatic life in areas where aquarium fish collection is most common, such as West Hawaii, he said.

“There is no evidence that aquarium fish collection there or anywhere else in Hawaii with the limits imposed, has had a significant detrimental impact on aquatic resources,” Dennison said.

The decision was made by the Intermediate Court of Appeals Aug. 31 and Thursday, Earthjustice — representing several community groups and individuals — appealed the decision to Hawaii’s highest court.

“Capturing wild fish for aquariums is damaging Hawaii’s coral reef ecosystems. It’s insane to pluck fish off a coral reef just to admire them in a dentist’s office,” said Miyoko Sakashita, ocean program director with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiffs.

With global climate change and other factors at play in the health of the ocean’s coral reefs, some people are concerned about the effects of pulling fish from the ecosystems.

And proponents of stricter aquarium fishing laws believe DNLR’s process isn’t enough to protect the reefs.

Hawaii environmental review law was designed to prevent decision-making that enables private exploitation of public trust resources, said Earthjustice attorney Summer Kupau-Odo.

“We’re confident the Hawaii Supreme Court will agree that DLNR cannot bury its head in the sand while the aquarium industry keeps taking and selling,” Kupau-Odo said.

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