Hawaii SB1240 Could Devastate Fishery

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stunreefer

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Hello fellow Ree2Reef members,

As some of you may know, there has been a big pushback on the collection of fishes from Hawaii for many years now. Legislation has been written to fully close down the Hawaii fishery (meaning no more Hawaiin fish collection), greatly limit the Hawaiian fishery, and everything in between. Every time the bill's have not passed, until now.

Hawaii SB1240 has passed the House and Senate, now awaiting Governor Ige's signature.

The bill was amended several times prior to passing, however, if enacted would cripple one of the best-managed fisheries in the world.

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 1.27.34 PM.png


This bill would quickly lead to Hawaii fishes having astronomical cost increases, although most concerning is overlooking the comprehensive data collected over the years proving how incredibly sustainable the fishery is, which could pave the way for this to happen to other fisheries.

We must encourage Governor Ige to veto this bill.

Click here to show Governor Ige we want this bill vetoed. (most important route)

Click here to sign another petition to veto this bill.

Still not sure?

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The above article was published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser May 31st, 2017. It was penned by three of the most knowledgeable people in the fish world, Dr. Richard Pyle, Dr. John (Jack) Randall, and Dr. Bruce Carlson.

This video by Dr. Bruce Calson is an in-depth look on the sustainable Hawaiian fishery. Definitely worth your time!


The following screenshot was taken from Dr. Luiz Rocha's 2017 MACNA presentation. In this slide, he walks us through how small the range of open collection for the yellow tang is, and how little impact collection has had over the years. Click here to see the presentation in full.

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From Dr. Rocha's presentation, "No reason whatsoever, if you think of pure data, to consider that any of those aquarium fisheries in Hawaii are threatening any population."

Dr. Rocha also mentions there is no regulation on spearing these same fishes from the reef in Hawaii. You can spear thousands of tangs in a few minutes with no concern.

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We have data from other fisheries showing how much more money a fisherman can earn catching live animals for the aquarium trade versus the food trade. Of course, this means considerably fewer fishes would be caught by a given fisherman to earn the same amount of money to care for their family, leaving more animals on the reef. Source

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Please act now and support vetoing this bill by clicking here and here.
______________________________________
UPDATE 6/23/17

Hey everyone, wanted to post an update as people on both sides of this bill continue to press forward.

We have another route of sending a message to the governor. You can e-mail the governor directly via this link.
  • Put "SB1240" in the "Bill Number" section, and select "oppose".
  • There is an option to attach a file if you've written up your own letter.
  • Make sure to click the "I am not a robot" box at the bottom.

You can write a short message in the appropriate box on that page, and/or attach a longer message. Here's a sample attachment letter:

Sample Letter said:
Dear Governor David Ige,

I support a well regulated tropical fish industry in Hawaii. The aquarium fishery in Hawaii has been monitored and regulated by the state for nearly 40 years. It has proven to be sustainable at current levels, and is not harmful to the marine environment. Well managed fisheries like this are a model for resource management throughout Hawaii and the world. Senate Bill 1240 is a flawed and harmful bill. It will prohibit aquarium fishermen from hiring crew members on their boats, forcing them to dive alone and endangering their lives. It will also eliminate recreational aquarium permits, along with the educational opportunities that they provide. SB1240 is not supported by science, endangers Hawaiian fishermen, and contradicts our goal of effectively managing 30% of our marine resources by 2030.

Governer Ige, please veto SB1240.

Signature:
Name (printed):
Date:
Zip Code:

This is the next best route of contact after the PIJAC link posted on the first page. Even if you did that, send opposition via this route as well.

Here's some recent noteworthy news regarding the issue:

Rick MacPherson said:
When environmental problems strike, a natural response is to [try to] point to the cause. Sometimes that's easy. But more often, it's a complex process to identify causal relationships. In marine ecosystems, it's often incredibly complicated. In part because it's an open system with many inputs. But it's also because we still don't fully understand how marine ecosystems operate. An example of how our lack of understanding is bumping up against our human desire to cast blame is playing out right now in Hawaii regarding the aquarium fish collection business and whether or not the State of Hawaii needs to step in to regulate or restrict this activity.

Reef fish collection for the aquarium trade is big business in Hawaii. I've written about it a few times. But the latest round of public input focusing on this issue has raised some concerns over how scientific data is interpreted and used to "support" a cause. On one side is the State of Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, within the Department of Land and Natural Resources, who have attempted to better manage targeted aquarium reef fish species through the use of no-take protected areas called fish replenishment areas (or FRAs). The idea being that fish stocks protected within FRA's are able to recover and both adults and juveniles spillover and replenish stocks in non-protected areas.

"But wait," cry some concerned Hawaii residents, that's not happening. Populations of commonly collected aquarium fish such as butterfly fish and some wrasse species are not recovering. Fewer fish are being observed on reefs. And over-collection of grazing species is leading to uncontrolled growth of algae on reefs that can smother healthy coral colonies. Their conclusion? FRA's don't work and aquarium fish collectors are to blame. Their solution? The State of Hawaii needs to ban fish collection or heavily regulate it.

Now let me say right up front that I'm ALL FOR increased regulation around aquarium reef fish collection in Hawaii. But I'm reading the scientific reports by the State of Hawaii and the rationale being used by local reef fish defenders and I'm coming to rather different interpretations of the data that leads me to this position.

I certainly agree that some butterfly fish and wrasse species are declining on Hawaiian reefs. But this is a trend almost across the board for both aquarium collected as well as non-aquarium trade targeted reef fish species. In fact, according to a report released in 2008, 75 percent of reef fishes are depleted or in critical condition around the main Hawaiian Islands. NOAA released "The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the United States and Pacific Freely Associated States: 2008," which outlined that the nation’s coral reef ecosystems, particularly those adjacent to populated areas, continue to face intense human-derived threats from coastal development, fishing, sedimentation and recreational use. Even the most remote reefs are subject to threats such as marine debris, illegal fishing and climate-related effects of coral bleaching, disease and ocean acidification.

So to single-out the aquarium fish trade alone is disingenuous. In addition, Hawaii reef fish defenders are using shabby tactics (selective quote mining from state scientists and officials to bolster their argument or straight-up factually inaccurate claims) to make their case. Yet they are claiming to be “science-based.” To these eyes, it’s more science fiction.

Let's take a look at the logical problems first. The argument being used to blame the ornamental collectors has an embedded fallacy of reason called Affirming the Consequent. It goes something like this:

If P then Q. Q, Therefore P.

Put another way:
If I have the flu, then I have a sore throat; I have a sore throat; Therefore, I have the flu.

The logical connections get at the causal relationship. Not all sore throats are caused by the flu. In the same way, not all fish declines in Hawaii are caused by aquarium collectors alone.

The second point about quote mining simply undermines the credibility of the reef fish defenders. Take for example this quote lifted from a report by State of Hawaii scientist Dr. Bill Walsh on the reef defender's website:

“One major challenge in this debate has been gathering sound data on an ecosystem as complex as the reef and an industry as broad-ranging as aquarium collecting. To adequately document the impact of all of these [100] species and their interactions with other members of the reef community, [Bill] Walsh says, would ‘take generations’."

The rhetorical effect of this out-of-context quote is that a State scientist appears to confirm that science is either lacking or cannot provide guidance in a timely manner. But this just isn't the case.
I know Dr. Bill and have interacted with him on a few occasions with work I’ve conducted on Hawaii Island. His analyses shows a somewhat more complex ecosystem reality. For the top five aquarium species collected in Kona, for instance, representing greater than 90% of all collected fishes, three of them have increased pretty dramatically (22%-44%) along the entire coast since the inception of FRA's. The two that didn’t increase are species targeted not only by aquarium collectors but also food fishers. So these fish get pinched from two directions.

He has also indicated that even species which nobody is collecting undergo population changes for reasons we don’t quite understand. Of 50 different species which are in the non-food/non-aquarium collection category, 28 declined and 22 increased. The bottom line seems to be there are variable patterns of abundance in fish population that can occur apart from human influences. Resource managers typically don’t know the cause, but in a healthy ecosystem these changes tend to be relatively minor and likely reverse themselves over time; given, of course, that habitat and water quality don’t degrade.

For dramatic effect, I'll reiterate: Provided HABITAT and WATER QUALITY don't degrade.

So to conclude that regulation or restriction is needed because FRA's don't work is entirely disingenuous, not recognizing other reasons for decline, and cherry picking the scientific data to suit your agenda. And what agenda might that be? To distance one's own contributions to the problem. Coastal reefs in Hawaii are taking a battering from a variety of local sources: Coastal development and sedimentation, water quality degradation, agricultural inputs to coastal water, overfishing, and unsustainable marine tourism practices. We need to be honest with ourselves that coral reef decline is suffering a death by a thousand cuts and we (all of us) are to blame. It's by no means too late to stem this decline. But it will take some tough self-realization of ALL our contributions to reverse this.

It certainly is not helping to constantly look to "the other" for the blame.

At the end of it all please keep this in mind: The overall main concern here is allowing outside influences with hidden agendas to dictate these laws by circumventing sound science with decades of data to support the fishery's sustainability.

Governor Ige's final decision will be made July 11th, 2017 (17 days as of this post).
Governor Ige said:
However, just because a bill is on the list, does not mean I will veto it. I can also decide to let it become law without my signature.
We are being heard. We must continue to be heard until July 11th.

Please be sure to spread the word to every aquarium lover and science advocate to veto this bill.
_______________________________________

Update 7/11/17

SB1240 has been vetoed!

While science won the battle today, the debate is far from over (and never will be).

This is the closest we have come to seeing Hawaii closed down.

As aquarist's, it's crucial to do your part by providing an environment allowing your animals to thrive long-term, and supporting sustainably minded suppliers offering high-quality animals. People are watching. Show them we care.
 
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REEFTIDE

Peng

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All the current permits will be grandfathered in and new permits can be issued at a sustainable rate so what are you freaking out about? I've seen enough people with their 60g tanks stacked with ich covered achilles, yellow, and naso tang that I don't necessarily think this new bill is a bad thing from an ethical standpoint.
 
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stunreefer

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All the current permits will be grandfathered in and new permits can be issued at a sustainable rate so what are you freaking out about?
False.

The manner of how permits will be grandfathered in is up to the DLNR. No new permits would be issued under this law (which is seen in the summary posted above or can be seen here).

The bill was introduced by groups presenting misleading information in order to sway public opinion via the tug at emotional heartstrings rather than relying on the sound data that has been collected, published, and presented for decades out of the Hawaiian fishery. Example:
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I've seen enough people with their 60g tanks stacked with ich covered achilles, yellow, and naso tang that I don't necessarily think this new bill is a bad thing from an ethical standpoint.
I wholeheartedly agree! However, this strawman argument serves no purpose here. We cannot control how responsible aquarists will be with their purchases, however, we can help educate and hope for the best.

This bill was built on emotions, which serve no purpose in fishery management. It could open the door to do major damage to other fisheries worldwide since the Hawaiian fishery is a beacon of sustainable aquarium fishery management.

This is not to mention the wording which would prohibit aquarium collectors from diving with a partner, making it incredibly unsafe.
 

DMan

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Let them pass it. They will only be urting their own economy. With the advances in captive breeding we wont need them eventually. If Hawaii Govenor wants to put all those people out of work then let him. It will only be a hiccup in the Aquarium industry, but we will find a way around it, and Hawaii will be the big loser in the end.
 
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stunreefer

stunreefer

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Let them pass it. They will only be urting their own economy. With the advances in captive breeding we wont need them eventually.
You might be surprised to see how much better it can be for the environment to sustainably collect fishes from the wild compared to captive breeding them. I know I was!

The most efficient breeder of fishes is mother nature. Properly targeting the correct size and sex allows these animals to breed again post haste, leading to an overall significantly lower carbon footprint compared to breeding fishes inland.

With that said, I am a huge proponent of captive breeding efforts and support them regularly. However, I feel it's important to cover all of our bases prior to turning our heads on regions that rely on the industry to make a living. Animals can be sustainably collected, I encourage you to check out these two presentations.

Laura covers this in her MACNA talk from last year:

This presentation covers the importance of both from MACNA last year:

If Hawaii Govenor wants to put all those people out of work then let him. It will only be a hiccup in the Aquarium industry, but we will find a way around it, and Hawaii will be the big loser in the end.
I agree that it could be a big hit to local fisherman. But more importantly, it could be a big hit to how fishery management is defined industry-wide.
 
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furam28

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I actually msgd the governor and requested him to sign the bill. As long as yellow tangs are being caught and sold at $10 wholesale there is never going to be an incentive for captive-breeding. Achilles tang population has greatly declined in parts of Hawaii where they are allowed to be caught. 50% of wild-caught fishes die by the time they reach LFS, and another 50% die in the 1st few months of hobbyists tanks. I will continue to support captive-fish hobby as long as it is not at the expense of the wild population in their natural habitats.
 
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furam28

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Aquarium fish exporters in hawaii dont create that many jobs, compared to the number of jobs created by reef tourism.

Let them pass it. They will only be urting their own economy. With the advances in captive breeding we wont need them eventually. If Hawaii Govenor wants to put all those people out of work then let him. It will only be a hiccup in the Aquarium industry, but we will find a way around it, and Hawaii will be the big loser in the end.
 

Warthur

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If this goes through, prices will go through the roof on everything. There was a vid posted on here about how many populations have gone up despite collection. Hence sustainability. Hopefully it gets vetoed. Many hard to find species will become impossible to obtain as a result... 250 for a dwarf angler is enough already... looking at 1k if this goes through
 
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I actually msgd the governor and requested him to sign the bill.
Sorry to hear that.
As long as yellow tangs are being caught and sold at $10 wholesale there is never going to be an incentive for captive-breeding.
Outright banning collection will not be an incentive for captive-breeding if breeders can not have broodstock collected.

The incentive for captive breeding is born through aquarists requesting these animals. Then, once bred, aquarists must support these efforts. This is talked about in this presentation.

Achilles tang population has greatly declined in parts of Hawaii where they are allowed to be caught.
Dr. Luiz Rocha was personally involved in transects in Hawaii and presents all of their findings here. I highly suggest checking it out.

There is no data suggesting that collection has influenced decline in Achilles tang. Furthermore, check the picture posted above of dozens of Achilles tangs in a cooler caught for the food fish market, which if speared or caught on hook and line, are unregulated.

50% of wild-caught fishes die by the time they reach LFS, and another 50% die in the 1st few months of hobbyists tanks. I will continue to support captive-fish hobby as long as it is not at the expense of the wild population in their natural habitats.
Where were these numbers pulled from?

After fourteen years as a professional in the industry I can assure you if I faced loss even close to these numbers, I would be long gone. I'm not suggesting that those numbers aren't what some people face in the industry - there are vendors flipping animals for a quick buck, including on this forum - however, an educated hobby base can weed out dismal vendors on their own. I also believe there should be a hobby-centric self-policing body put back into practice, although that's another conversation for another time.

Letting outside forces influence lawmakers on our own industry is a sure-fire way to end it wholly.

I will also continue to support captive breeding efforts, but please reference the above post #7 for more information on this.
 
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Higher Thinking

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I actually msgd the governor and requested him to sign the bill. As long as yellow tangs are being caught and sold at $10 wholesale there is never going to be an incentive for captive-breeding. Achilles tang population has greatly declined in parts of Hawaii where they are allowed to be caught. 50% of wild-caught fishes die by the time they reach LFS, and another 50% die in the 1st few months of hobbyists tanks. I will continue to support captive-fish hobby as long as it is not at the expense of the wild population in their natural habitats.
What an absurd post. No facts, no logic, just ridiculous. You skip over multiple experts in the industry giving their educated opinion about sustainability and then, while having no factual basis, you just create a statement with no merit.

This is an example of what's wrong with the world. We don't want to entertain facts, we'd rather just believe something we made up that makes us feel better.

Sorry if this sounds harsh, but come on. Let's look at the real data and listen to the experts. Not just sit in our Lazy Boys talking about fifty percent whatevers. I know some terrible hobbyists, but even they don't lose half their livestock.
 

Warthur

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Looks like we all might have to message the governor. Based on the momentum it seems to have gained every message to the governor to pass it needs 5 to counter it. I already sent one to veto it but everyone needs to reach out if we want to be able to continue to collect Hawaiian fish
 

VR28man

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Sorry, Furam28, I gotta disagree with you.

Basic questions:

Who is pushing this bill for what reason? Probably the loudest voice on this bill and related bills/agitation are various animal rights groups and their sympathizers like Snorkel Bob (google a bit about the bill and you'll find his op-ed in the Huffington Post about it). It's very clear that these people don't think animals should be kept in aquaria. It's also very clear that they blame the "Big Aquarium Industry" and aquarists for cruelty and for signficant amounts of the destruction of coral reefs.

[yes, some local citizens are on board due to their agitation, as well as likely some of the grandfathered license holders, and especially some members of the snorkel/dive tour industry - which, as a snorkler and diver who often visits Hawaii, I believe has unavoidably been an equally, or even more, destructive force on the reefs in Hawaii. Case in point: Hanauma Bay. IMO donations from animal rights True Believers as well as the snorkel/dive tour industry are the number one source of money for this political movement. ]

Also, the assertion that the aquarium industry is doing significant damage to Hawaii's reefs and is unsustainable is false [look at the figures and facts presented. And if the DNLR contradicts them, they say the DNLR are bureaucrats in the pockets of the Big Aquarium Industry.

I hate sounding like the NRA's rantings about guns, but it seems these people wish no one kept an aquarium. Honestly, the fanaticism and sanctimoniousness of the fish rights folks and Snorkel Bob is shocking, even for a church-hopper like me who's seen all kinds of strange folks behind the pulpit (and in the pews).


What is the effect of this bill? This will restrict fish collection to, as I recall, ten businesses, which automatically creates an aquarium oligopoly. I don't see that as a benefit to anyone, except for those ten. If any vendor is not one of the ten, then they are automatically gone.

Worst is the effect on Hawaiian residents; regulations are such that you cannot import saltwater life (besides fish) in (probably reasonable), you can't keep hard corals (because of previous legislation like this in, as I recall, the late 90s. Even though many of the Porites and Montipora that live in HI are very easily fragged and kept). With this bill, the way I understand it, it basically means that if you can't get it from one of the distributors, you cannot get it - since to do any noncommercial collection on your own you need a now unobtainable permit.

[tangential points]
Aquarium keeping -especially reef keeping - is a hobby, enjoyed by a small minority of people. A well funded and fanatical political campaign can agitate to restrict it for what they think are in the interest of "the oceans" - and reef keeping is especially vulnerable because of the worldwide state of the ocean. Once legislation is in place, aquarium keepers as an individual IMO are generally not the types to become very effectively political organized. In fact, I'm told that the aquarium hobby as a whole is declining - with Hawaii being especially so. (in the whole Big Island, as far as I've been able to see, the only store that sells aquarium stuff is the Kona Petco)

Pollution, runoff, and terrestrial, freshwater, and marine habitat destruction from development I think is the most destructive thing for Hawaii's reefs, more so IMO even than global warming. However, there's too much interest and money there; in the end I guarantee you 90% of people wouldn't give up their lawns if it meant it could save the reefs (and yes, I'm making a false dicotomy, but I think the basic idea is true). I will also note that no one is talking about limiting tour groups to the reef or reducing commercial and recreactional fishing limits (which would cause a real outcry, unlike aquarium keeping.

As far as keeping corals go, I think a strong, responsible group of people keeping corals is critical to preserving coral reefs, especially in a developed ocean area like Hawaii. There's a saying that "you can’t save what you don’t love, and you can’t love what you don’t know". Scientists can go and test all kinds of theories, and identify all kinds of corals, and that's good. But marine scientists are a very small group of people - even smaller than reef aquarists.

Hawaiian aquarists, ideally, would not only know that a coral is a Montipora or Porites (whereas no one besides scientists and aquarists would know), know how to grow them and keep them healthy. They know if the water parameters are off, that algae can quickly can quickly destroy their tank. Ideally, they would volunteer to help maintain and heal some reefs, if it was somehow salvagable, helping the scientists with restoration projects with their otherwise unavailable practical experience.

The more people concientiously in the hobby, the better things could be for the wild reefs. Or, on the flip side, read reviews of the Waikiki aquarium on tripadvisor and see how poorly the general public appreciates this leader in coral keeping.
[/tangential points]

How else can Yellow Tang populations be not so cruelly exploited? If the Hawaii DLNR says that the current yellow tang catch rate (200k/yr from Kona, which fills most worldwide demand) under the current areas and season limits is sustainable, that amount's fine by me. The problem is in distribution, retail, and especially the end user. I would be fine, in generally, with lowering the limit by even as much as 90% - likely causing yellow tang prices to jump drastically- in the hopes that people would treat their tangs more seriously. (I do question how effective that would be).

But this bill does nothing for this, and the fact that the bill focuses on creating a collection oligopoly in Hawaii vice lower catch limits says to me that it's more about scoring points for an interest group (and about the pocketbooks of some potential oligopolists).

Sorry for the wall of text.
 
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ksfulk

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Austin -

Thanks for bringing this to light. I had read about it from Matt Pederson's facebook post and had gotten emails concerning it from PIJAC already - but its good to get this out in front of all of the reefers here on the forums, as this is where we can really reach out to the people that this will impact. Ive signed both and emails the governor as well. I think its worth the time and effort to involve ourselves with this, and Im proud to do what I can to maintain momentum.

Thanks again,
-Kris
 
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furam28

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I support the hobby but let's be willing to accept fair criticism. Almost 100% of marine fish are wild-caught
If I'm reading this correctly, the bill does nothing to prevent (for example) the spearing of all of those fish for food or for other uses?

Thats because this bill is meant to address ornamental fish trade. Last I checked Hawaiians don't spear Yellow Tangs for dinner.
 
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