KAILUA-KONA — A final environmental impact statement on a proposal to issue commercial aquarium permits in west Hawaii waters suggests awarding permits to only 10 aquarium fishermen, an advisory council said.
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council reduced the suggested number from 14 to 10 permits issued for the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area, West Hawaii Today reported Saturday.
The Hawaii Supreme Court halted aquarium fishing in the area in September 2017 after ruling collection without an environmental review violates the state Environmental Policy Act. The environmental impact statement is designed to bring the aquarium trade into compliance with the state act.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources must either accept or deny the proposal 30 days from receiving the final environmental statement. If accepted, a program would be implemented.
The final impact statement includes a bag limit of 10 for the achilles tang and five for both yellow tang and kole, which combined account for 90% of the fish collected prior to the court order, officials said.
The statement also limits annual collection to less than 2% of the islandwide population, well under the 5% to 25% rate environmental research suggests is sustainable. Recreational aquarium collectors without a commercial license are also limited to five fish per person per day, but are prohibited from selling their catch.
“No significant adverse effects would occur as a result of the preferred alternative,” the statement said.
The proposal estimates a direct impact of $1.8 million to $3.7 million added to the economy over five years with an additional $9.1 million to $18.7 million in indirect impacts, officials said.
The National Marine Fisheries Service, the Coral Reef Ecosystem Program, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources, the state Department of Health’s office of environmental quality control and others were all consulted in the final process.