Hawaii is the only state in the country to allow aquarium extraction with no limits.

The United NationsConvention of International Trade in Endangered Species and its 175 member countries recognize the international wildlife trade as an ecological and economic problem causing large scale loss and damage.

We implore Gov. David Ige to sign Senate Bill 1240 to keep Hawaii’s native and endemic wildlife on Hawaii reefs instead of shipping it out to tanks across the United States, Europe and Asia. China is the fastest-growing market for Hawaii reef wildlife.

Ending aquarium permit issuance will not guarantee survival for Hawaii reefs. Our reefs face many challenges, but the governor can eliminate one serious, entirely unnecessary and immoral threat.

Angelfish Waikiki Aquarium. Fish
Angelfish at the Waikiki Aquarium. A bill awaiting action from the governor calls for phasing out the local industry. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Hawaii is so small and fragile that it deserves protection. We have a chance here to recognize Hawaiian cultural heritage and put public trust before selfish commercial objectives. 

The state Legislature has addressed this issue frequently over the last 50 years, but special interests delayed or derailed efforts every time — until now.

In 1973 our reefs were in good shape, and a ban on aquarium extraction nearly went into effect, until political pressure got the acting governor to lift the ban a few days before it could begin. Talk has gone on and on, while our reefs decline.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources must protect natural resources by law has been captured by the aquarium trade, using reported catch data to justify an undefined concept of “sustainable.”

It’s a lie. Actual catch is two to five times reported catch. That’s two to 10 million reef critters each year taken from Hawaii reefs to feed the aquarium trade.

Twenty-eight million reef critters are in the aquarium pipeline at all times, and 99 percent of them perish within a year of capture. That is what the aquarium trade calls “sustainable.” It’s a bottom line revenue assessment.

DLNR says it has no data to support SB 1240, even as DLNR fought tooth and nail against environmental assessment all the way to the Hawaii Supreme Court.

We await that decision. Will the Ige administration defy the Judicial Branch as well in defense of this despicable trafficking in reef wildlife?

Hawaii’s people and the public trust should come first. SB 1240 will end aquarium permitting in Hawaii and require DLNR to define “sustainability” with catch limits on the forty most targeted species.

Public Trust Trumps Aquarium Lobbyists

Pono politics recognizes the difference between right and wrong, so we encourage Gov. Ige to lead with a signature and put Hawaii’s people and public reef trust above aquarium trade lobbyists. We encourage him to override the conflict of interest at DLNR.

Stopping aquarium permits in Hawaii is both economic and morally beneficial. One-hundred seventy five nations have ended live export for the pet trade. Hawaii promotes aloha and beauty as aquarium extraction renders us hypocritical and foolish.

Enough. The future is now for these islands in the blue and this Blue Island Earth. (Thank you, Nainoa Thompson.)

Where is the data on wild animals caught for the pet trade? That always ends badly — from alligators in New York sewers to Burmese pythons engorging South Florida. Lionfish in the Atlantic and Caribbean now outnumber all other species.

How did they get there? They didn’t swim there. Where is the data on that? Some are Hawaii lionfish.

Where is the science allowing Hawaii to ship wildlife indiscriminately, to become mortally invasive in far away places? Is that aloha? Give reefs a chance.

I met with Gov. Ige on this issue and gave him the DLNR Policy edict below. He scanned it and asked his associate: “Did you know about this?”

Apparently the governor did not know. But he knows now.

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