In a sweeping 7-0 decision, the Board of Land and Natural Resources votedagainst a group of aquarium fishers seeking permits to collect aquarium fishin West Hawaii.

After four hours of deliberation Friday, the BLNR decided that a recentlysubmitted, 2000-page Final Environmental Impact Statement the fisherssubmitted did not adequately address the potential environmental impacts thatcould come from issuing the permits.

The fishers, part of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, asked theDepartment of Land and Natural Resources for 10 of such permits for Hawaiiisland’s West Hawaii Regional Fisher Management Area, which they said was thesite of nearly $1.3 million of the state’s commercial aquarium fishery in2017. At that point 45% of the aquarium fish caught in Hawaii came from themanagement area.

In 2017, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that existing permits allowing fishersuse fine mesh nets to catch wildlife was illegal, and the DLNR has not issuedany since. Fishers who use other gear to catch fish continue to do so, theDLNR said in a news release today.

In the FEIS the council submitted, it said, “There would be no construction ofpermanent or semipermanent infrastructure, no discharges into coastal, surfaceor ground waters, no dredging, and no significant use of hazardous materialsthat could be released into the environment” if the permits were issued.

It also said the permits would not lead to an adverse effect on water quality,soil, vegetation or wildlife.

Despite PIJAC’s assurances, BLNR Chair Suzanne Case said in a statement, “Theunanimous vote clearly reflects the Board’s view that the aquarium fishers’proposal, without meaningful limits on future catch, without enough attentionto our highly depleted stocks like pakuʻikuʻi (Achilles tang) and other low-number species, and without adequate analysis of the near-future effects ofclimate change, ocean warming and coral bleaching on our reefs, did notadequately disclose the potential environmental impacts of the proposed tenpermits.”

The council had asked for a daily bag limit of five Achilles Tang, a drop fromthe daily bag limit of 10 set in 2013.

In report to the state Legislature in December, the DLNR reported asignificant decline in the Achilles Tang population in West Hawaii from2008-2018.

PIJAC said the 5-fish bag limit would be well within the range of sustainablefishing for the species, which is targeted for commercial and subsistencepurposes.

The DLNR reported hundreds of public testimonies in response to the FEIS. Thetestimonies were largely against it and the issuance of the permits. Theirconcerns covered depleted coral reefs and fish populations, which they say thepermits would contribute to. Cultural practitioners also opposed the permitsand said the culture impacts should be analyzed more.

Source: USA Star Advisor

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