HONOLULU — The Hawaii Environmental Council has effectively extended a ban oncommercial aquarium collection along the west coast of Hawaii Island.
The state council on Thursday upheld a decision by the Board of Land andNatural Resources to reject an environmental impact statement for a proposalto reopen the Big Island waters to the million-dollar aquarium fish trade.
The land and natural resources board voted in May to reject the impactstatement submitted by 10 West Hawaii aquarium fish collectors and theNational Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.
The proposal would have allowed commercial aquarium collectors to take fishusing fine-mesh nets, with restrictions including size and bag limits onvarious fish species and a reduction in the daily bag limit of Achilles tangfish from 10 to five fish.
The Hawaii Supreme Court halted aquarium fishing in September 2017 by rulingfish collection without environmental review violates the Hawaii EnvironmentalPolicy Act.
The activity is opposed by some Native Hawaiians and marine conservationgroups. Many reef advocates have urged more state scrutiny for decades.
This was the first time in the 40 years since the Hawaii Environmental PolicyAct was enacted that the state environmental council has presided over apolicy appeal.
“The council’s historic decision to affirm the land board reinforces thatHawaii’s bedrock environmental review law is not merely a paper exercise,”said Kylie Wager Cruz, an attorney for environmental law organizationEarthjustice.
Fisherman Wilfred Kaupiko has fought for more than 30 years to protect WestHawaii reefs from what he said are damaging effects of the aquarium trade.
“This is a huge win for me and my family and for our way of life,” Kaupikosaid.
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, a Virginia-based trade group,expressed disappointment with the council’s decision “to ignore the evidenceand support the Land Board’s flawed decision.”
“We are amazed that during these trying times state governing bodies continueto ignore the substantial science supporting the sustainability of the fisheryand eliminate a livelihood that has supported Hawaiian families forgenerations,” council Vice President of Government Affairs Bob Likins said ina statement.
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