Maui County Council Member Mike Molina introduced a bill late last month to significantly increase regulating how aquarium fish are treated once they are caught. The goal is to put fish captured for aquarium use on the same level as cats or dogs, which are covered by multiple laws protecting their health. According to Renee Umberger, environmentalist and dive operator, the animals are not looked upon as being pets. Instead, they are considered a product that is bought and sold.
The bill will not decrease the number of aquarium fish caught and removed from the ocean, but is intended to raise awareness about the overfishing occurring in Hawaiian waters. Existing Hawaiian laws only state that aquarium fish collectors must maintain their facilities to keep the fish alive and in good health, which most critics don’t think goes far enough.
Here are a few things to be accomplished by the bill:
- Prohibit many industry practices, including withholding food for more than 12 hours; deflating the swim bladder; trimming the spine or fins; exposure to air; and temperature changes of more than 2 degrees.
- Include causing the death of fish as being an inhumane treatment of aquatic life.
- Require documentation of mortality rates and disposal methods of dead fish.
- Provide that violations would be a misdemeanor with a fine between $500 and $2,000 and up to a year in jail.
As with all aquarium related legislation, I am weary to support any bill. I support the idea of wildlife conservation and I will do whatever I can to promote sustainable harvesting. With all that is happening in our world today, I don’t feel that any legislation goes far enough to protect our reefs. But I don’t think that the regulation has to be on the collection side only. I would love to see something introduced to promote aquaculture and mariculture, perhaps in the form of tax breaks or something like that.
For the full story, see Bill Would Regulate Aquarium Fish Harvest.