Hawaii’s Aquarium Fishery: What Happened? MACNA 2018

20 Sep, 2018

An aquarium fish collector in Hawaii size-sorts fishes trapped in a barrier net, releasing a Yellow Tang deemed too large for the aquarium trade.

An aquarium fish collector in Hawaii size-sorts fishes trapped in a barrier net, releasing a Yellow Tang deemed too large for the aquarium trade. Video takes a look at the Hawaiian AQ fishery in action—and under the gun of actvivist protesters.

Of the many presentations that came out of MACNA 2018, one of the most-talked-about and  first to be shared is Dr. Bruce Carlson’s look at the history and status of Hawaii’s Aquarium Fishery. Touted as one of the most sustainable and well-managed marine aquarium fisheries on the planet, it has come under fire repeatedly over the years.

Carlson’s in-depth talk lays out the need for management, recognized as early as 1978. It evolves to explain the management plans called for in 1998 and enacted soon thereafter. You’ll come to understand the difference between Fish Replenishment Areas (FRAs, where aquarium fishing is prohibited, but fishing for food is not) and Marine Life Conservation Districts (MLCDs, aka Marine Protected Areas or MPAs, where no fishing of any kind is permitted). Carlson further explains how all these areas are routinely monitored, with data collection going back years. Carlson’s presentation also illuminates many of the other terms, organizations, and people you hear about in debates over the aquarium fishery in Hawaii.

DLNR data illustrating the abundance of Yellow Tangs in MPAs, FRAs, and open areas.

DLNR data illustrating the abundance of Yellow Tangs in MPAs, FRAs, and open areas.

 

2017 to the Present

Carlson does an excellent job framing the debate over Hawaii’s Aquarium Fishery and explaining the current status of the fishery (which, among other things, explains how there can still be some fish collected and exported legally from certain parts of Hawaii, which is why you still see some fish showing up, albeit at higher expense and lower quantities than before). He illustrates how a relentless campaign of misinformation is being used to sway public opinion in favor of those whose greater aim is to end the practice of harvesting fish for aquariums around the globe.

Statements made on Hawaii Public Radio by Earthjustice Attorney Summer Kupao-Ono which are factually unsound and highly inflammatory.

Statements made on Hawaii Public Radio by Earthjustice Attorney Summer Kupao-Ono. These statements are factually unsound and highly inflammatory.

 

In a subsequent Hawaii Public Radio interview, Dr. Bruce Anderson, former Administrator with the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) at Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), points to the actual data in response to Earthjustice allegations made.

In a subsequent Hawaii Public Radio interview, Dr. Bruce Anderson, former Administrator with the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) at Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), points to the actual data in response to the allegations made by Earthjustice.

 

The Future

Carlson is forced to close his presentation facing an uncertain future. While he is hopeful that data and science can win out, Hawaii’s aquarium fishery remains severely restricted at this time. Carlson offers some advice to all aquarists, which we’ll include here.

  • The assault on the Hawaii Aquarium Fishery is a part of a much larger effort to stop the collection and import of all wild-caught marine life.
  • Hobbyists (you!) and the industry need to be involved in multi-media and social media efforts to promote the benefits of your aquariums (educational, scientific, therapeutic, and economic) to a much wider audience outside of the hobby.
  • Hobbyists, the aquarium industry, and public aquariums all need to support fisheries, like Hawaii’s fishery, that are well managed and sustainable, and do more to ensure that other fisheries are equally well managed and sustainable.

Watch “Hawaii’s Aquarium Fishery – What Happened?” (38:09)

 

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About the author

Reef To Rainforest
Reef To Rainforest

Reef to Rainforest Media, LLC is the publisher of award-winning magazines and books in the fields of aquarium keeping, aquatics, and marine science. It is the English-language publisher of CORAL and AMAZONAS Magazines and is based in Shelburne, Vermont, USA.

2 Comments

  1. September 22, 2018

    I support the legitimacy of the different interesrs here.
    Reality changes are dictating restrictions to life extractive business. When the living natural systems are in general catastrophic collapse as is the case now, a reasonable position would be resist any further human meddling with the overall ecosystem.
    Perhaps it is instinctive distrust that our attempt to overthrow and replace the current apex predators in nature should give us pause. How’s it going for us so far? The data says 90% of food fish are gone.
    We are the only species of predator that selectively hunt and kill the largest trophies among our prey species. Unfortunately these are the very individuals that account for the great majority of a population’s reproduction.
    Continually removing the largest individuals is a selective pressure towards dwarfism, where the high capacity to reproduce is gone from the species, a step down the slippery slope to extinction.
    The reality is that the diversity of life here has arisen from need, where each individual is filling a conected role with a finely tuned ecosystem that can be seen as balanced and stable when the environment permits and stressed when it is unbalanced.
    Food fish in decline with ornamentals increasing is not a sustainable ecosystem as Carlson knows, which he why he conditions his faux conclusion with an imaginary definition of sustainabilty that obviously serves the collectors.
    Tropical marine species exist in especially complex networks of nutrient and gene flow in a sustainable ecosystem. Each part relies on an equilibrium state with the other component life forms, ultimately within a state of biocontrol by the apex predator functions, generally culling less “fit” individuals.
    This is where we fail miserably. We need to think and act much more pro-habitat and ecosystem stability if we are to survive. Meantime let’s rear some amazing ornamentals in hatcheries and find ways to improve and increase habitat where natural processes have respite from our incompetence.

  2. October 08, 2018

    Bravo Dr Carlson. From by reading, your opinions are shared by many highly qualified researchers in this matter … sans commercial interests.

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