Coral Reef Wildlife Trafficking for a Hobby 

98% of all saltwater aquarium animals are wild caught. 

Upwards of a million or more reef animals are captured annually on Hawaii's coral reefs and shipped to the mainland U.S., Europe and Asia for sale in the saltwater aquarium hobby. Mortality rates are astronomical. From the point of capture, up to 40 percent of Hawaii's Yellow Tangs will die before reaching the hobbyist. 

January 2010:  Over 600 fish, captured for the aquarium trade, found dead in a Big Island harbor dumpster.

In hobby tanks, m
ost of the rest will die within weeks or months from stress related disease; from cramped or failed environments; from improper food; and, generally because the vast majority of those att
empting to keep them are too inexperienced. Though Yellow Tangs are extremely long lived in the wild, with an average age of 11 years on  a protected reef, by some estimates, just a few percent of coral reef wildlife will survive over a year in captivity.

Studies have shown that collecting Hawaii's most beautiful and unique species for the aquarium hobby has caused their populations to decline by 14% - 97% on unprotected reefs.

Hawaii's fishes and critters have no protections from the trade though harvesting or harming coral and rock (!) in Hawaii has been illegal for decades,.

For a $50 annual license and permit, commercial collectors have access to every living animal on every reef in Hawaii that isn't protected - virtually 99% of Hawaii's coral reefs are impacted by this industry.

Please join the grass-roots efforts of citizens concerned about the harvesting, welfare and trafficking of Hawaii's coral reef animals for the marine aquarium hobby.



*Based on 2007 - 2010 reported take with conservative 2X under and non-reporting factored in.

Please help us stop the counter:
May 2014:  For the Fishes Director Rene Umberger viciously attacked underwater by wildlife trafficker while documenting aquarium trade practices on Hawaii's reefs. The attacker, though known to authorities, has yet to be arrested or charged for what most agree was attempted murder:

Apr. 2014: 
Years of efforts in Yellow Tang captive culture result a single yellow tang larva surviving to 83 days. Hailed as a milestone by insiders, commercially available captive bred Yellow Tangs are still years away, if at all possible.  Read more...

Dec. 2013: 
ignoring the thousands of postcards urging an end to the AQ trade, the 2,590 testimonies opposing the AQ rules, and the ongoing lawsuit to compel the state to adhere to its own environmental law, Gov. Abercrombie signs the bogus, unenforceable AQ rules into law.

Summer 2013: 
Bill Walsh is at it again.. releasing a brief, "South Kohala Reefs in Dire Straits", documenting alarming steep declines in reef fish and blaming the declines on SCUBA spearfishing, despite the fact that the majority of the fish in the report are taken by the AQ trade, species not speared and not eaten. Worse, the report is based on data he's had since 2008 when he concluded that the trends were so obvious, more surveys weren't required in 2009. The question on everyone's mind... why, then, did he wait until 2013 to share the information?

Spring 2013: 
as a result of overwhelming testimony opposing the AQ rules, Hawaii state worker Bill Walsh and his boss, ex-aquarium collector Bill Aila, take matters into their own hands and throw out 2,390 opposition testimonies as "comments only".

For the record the AQ testimonies were:  2,590 opposed (554 from Hawaii) and 875 support (500 from Hawaii).

Oct. 2012:  Earthjustice files lawsuit on behalf of citizens and conservations groups to require Hawaii resource management agency to protect HI reefs from unlimited aquarium trade collection.

Spring 2012:  Results from a public opinion poll commissioned by The Humane Society of the U.S. and Humane Society International show an overwhelming majority of Hawaii residents want to see an end to commercial aquarium collection.
8% of Big Island residents want Hawaii County to do whatever it can, as Maui County did, should the state fail to act. 8

Winter 2012: 
Reef fish deaths in Petco stores prompt protests on Maui and later on Oahu. Petco ceases sales of yellow tangs and kole in Hawaii stores, but refuses to switch to ONLY captive bred and continues to offer all Hawaii species in its mainland and internet outlets. Trade journal attributes refusal to cease wildlife sales as concern over potential lost revenues from disinterested hobbyists.



Fall 2011:
  • Hawaii, Kauai and Maui county elected officials urge the State legislature, the Dept. of Land & Natural Resources and the Governor to ban the aquarium trade.
  • Marine scientist, Dr. Gail Grabowsky, reports that species taken by the aquarium trade are down by 90% on Oahu's targeted reefs

2010/2011:  Maui County becomes the first in Hawaii to protect coral reef wildlife from the aquarium trade by requiring those capturing  them to obtain County permits (tax clearances and fees required) and to abide by Hawaii's animal cruelty law; it also expressly prohibits the trade's harmful handling and shipping practices!

More News
For the Fishes                                                           
Protecting Coral Reef Wildlife From the Aquarium Trade

Working to Keep Hawaii's Reef Animals on Hawaii's Reefs!