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

Managing the Trade
The Results of Hawaii Island's Current Management and Proposed New Rules.

Limited Areas
Intended to ease community conflict and protect fish stocks while supporting robust collecting, over 35% of Hawaii Island's reefs were closed to the aquarium trade in early 2000.

The good news:  within the no-take zones (FRA's), most fish populations rebounded within a relative few short years.

The bad news:  within the open areas, more fish than ever before are being taken and populations are plummeting.
  • Comparing Yellow Tang abundance in open areas between 1999 and 2009 reveals that abundance is 45% worse now.

Source:  Hawaii Div. of Aquatic Resources

  • Comparing Yellow Tang open area abundance to FRA abundance reveals that it's now 73% lower in the unprotected areas.

Source:  Hawaii Div. of Aquatic Resources

  • Remember, this represents 65% of Hawaii Island reefs.   

Limited Permits
The aquarium trade and it's supporters say what's needed is "more management" and propose rules to cap permits (aka "limited entry").

Limited permits will focus the profits into fewer hands, but it won't help yellow tangs or reefs. Consider this:

  • 75 permits issued in FY2010 yielded a take of 463,411 animals
  • 39 permitees in 2006 reported taking 504,772 animals

Fewer permits doesn't equal fewer fish taken. 

Unless, of course, it's an extreme limit, but that's not what the trade and it's supporters are proposing.

The limited entry scheme will do nothing to restore open area fish populations to their natural balance.  Only prohibiting the trade will do that. 
Limited Species
Also proposed is a rule that limits the number of species that can be collected. Called a "white list", it would drop the number of species that could be collected from 260+ to 40.  The collectors have approved this list because it includes about 99% (by value) of the species they collect. 

The good news:  the originally proposed 25 species white list included the extremely difficult to keep alive Moorish Idol and that species has been removed from the new 40 species white list.

The bad news: 

  • Few fish on the list are considered to be appropriate for beginner aquarists, representing the vast majority of the hobby.
  • Many fish on the list are endemic, part of Hawaii's natural legacy and important to the Hawaiian culture.
  • Many fish on the list are considered to be difficult to keep alive due to special dietary needs, sensitivity, etc.
  • Between 20 - 40% of all fish taken will die enroute to the hobbyist.
  • None of the fish will be able to live for a considerable portion of their natural potential while under the care of hobbyists.  It is likely they will all die prematurely from stress related disease associated with life in captivity. 

Hawaii's coral reef wildlife is important to the reefs and ocean ecosystems, to the Hawaiian culture, to resident snorkelers, divers and fishers, and to tourism.

The best way to manage it for the benefit of all is to stop the trade.  It's that simple.