The state agency overseeing Hawaii’s natural resources has officially prohibited commercial aquarium fishing without the necessary environmental reviews, following a court ruling last month on the controversial practice.

The new limits only apply to commercial marine licenses issued or renewed after Nov. 27, however. That’s the date Judge Jeffrey Crabtree ruled that any commercial takes for aquarium purposes needed to follow the state’s environmental review process first.

On Tuesday, the Department of Land and Natural Resources announced that it has updated the terms and conditions for the licenses it issues to reflect Crabtree’s order.

A kole tang, the second most targeted species in West Hawaii by the aquarium fishers. FromSandToGlass/Flickr

Crabtree’s ruling stemmed from a lawsuit challenging the commercial aquarium fishing that’s continued in Hawaii waters even after the state Supreme Court issued its own decision in 2017 limiting the practice.

The Supreme Court ruled that commercial fisherman needed an approved environmental impact statement to use fine-mesh nets for aquarium fishing. Crabtree’s decision last month found that all commercial aquarium fishing in Hawaii needed environmental review, regardless of the method.

Following the 2017 court ruling, more than half a million fish were taken from Hawaii waters by commercial fishermen for aquariums, according to state documents provided in the lawsuit.

Licenses for commercial fishing issued before Nov. 27 will remain valid until they expire, and DLNR has previously stated that those licenses are valid for a year from when they’re issued. Some of the conservationists that brought the latest lawsuit challenging aquarium fishing have expressed worry that there will be a “run on the reefs” to collect those fish before the licenses expire.

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