Advocacy group Earthjustice has filed a lawsuit against the state of Hawaii to try and stop the commercial collection of aquarium fish until after the state complies with the Hawaii Environmental Police Act (HEPA), according to a report in the Garden Island News. The report says that Hawaii is the largest exporter of saltwater fish for the aquarium trade in the United States and the state is approving collection permits without HEPA review. It further says that the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), which is also named in the lawsuit, has never examined the impact that issuing permits has on the ecosystem and the fish populations in Hawaii.
According to the DLNR, approximately 75 percent of aquarium fish collection occurs on the Big Island’s west coast and 99 percent of invertebrates are collected off Oahu. The report also says that more than half a million fish and invertebrates (500,123) were collected by 36 licensees on the Big Island in 2011. Of that total 481,369 were sold for $1.49 million. On Oahu, 42 licensees collected 221,054 fish and invertebrates, of which 219,780 were sold for $713,668. The yellow tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) was by far the most popular fish targeted for collection, with 284,733 collected off the Big Island and 19,581 collected off Oahu. The yellow tang sold for an average of $3.92 per fish.
In addition to Earthjustice, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States, the Conservation Council for Hawaii, and individuals Rene Umberger, Mike Nakachi, Kaimi Kaupiko and Willie Kaupiko.