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Monday, December 3, 2012
New Aquarium Fish Rules to Maintain Sustainability
By Selected News Articles @ 2:45 AM :: 4752 Views :: Environment

New Aquarium Fish Rules to Maintain Sustainability

by Ron Tubbs

After years of work, the State legislature, DLNR researchers and aquarium fish collectors have nearly completed new rules. December 5th 2012 is one of the last hearings before these proposed rules becomes law. The State legislature mandated the Aquarium Fish collectors work with DLNR researchers in response to complaints over fish population questions. After numerous meetings between DLNR researchers and the aquarium fishermen they agreed to many proposed rules. The 2011 rules draft was the result.

What was already considered to be a sustainable fishery will now be even more conservative. Hawaii's reef fish produce large amounts of baby fry repopulating Hawaii's reefs quickly making small catches of aquarium fish a renewable resource. Each reef fish pair produce 1 to 5 million small fry per spawning and replenish reefs quickly. DLNR aquarium fish stats reported 456,613 aquarium fish were taken by 86 aquarium fishermen statewide in fiscal 2012. One small drop in the bucket of overall fish counts.

In one of the most studied areas West Hawaii, Dr. Bill Walsh studies have shown an actual overall increase in aquarium fish populations.

DLNR Aquatic Biologist Dr. Bill Walsh reports "Due to recent technological advances in coral reef habitat mapping we’re now able to estimate and track the total population sizes of many reef fishes. For example over the past 12 years the West Hawai’i population of yellow tang in the 30’-60’ prime reef habitat has increased by just over 337,000 fish. Similarly kole populations have increased by over 1,019,000 fish. These two species make up 91% of the total West Hawai’i aquarium catch. This is not devastation. There are indeed concerns over some species to be sure but that is what management is for."

By working with researchers, aquarium fish collectors have given in to more regulatory laws to ensure pretty reef fish are here for all ocean users now and in the future. Some opposed to aquarium fish collecting feel fish should not be taken for aquariums and that they are better off in the wild due to poor survivability. The survivability issue too has also been studied.

Studies show aquarium related mortality is very low. The Cesar 2002 study says: “Mortality rates of aquarium fish are low and have gone down considerably since the last survey in 1984. Currently, mortality rates from collection to wholesaler are estimated at 0 to 1 percent. In the wholesalers’ tanks, mortality rates range from close to 0% up to 2%. During shipment, rates range from 0.75% to 2%. This gives a current total of between 1% and 5%, down from a range of 5% to 8% in the early 1980’s (van Poolen and Obara, 1984; estimates of wholesalers and collectors, own study).” Increased aquarium keeping technologies have made reef fish even more survivable in aquariums.

User conflicts continue and Maui activists complain about no more fish. One leading researcher, Dr. Dan Polhemus, pointed out that "in the grand scheme of things, the aquarium take on Maui is literally a drop in the bucket, representing less than 2% of the total mortality of (Maui) reef animals that year. This serves to point out that undue focus and hyperbole about aquarium collecting and its impact on the reefs is dangerously shortsighted and counterproductive."

If you wish to attend the meeting it will be held at 6:00 pm Wed, Dec 5, 2012 in the Waimalu Elementary School cafeteria, 98-825 Moanalua Rd, Pearl City.

 

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