More Legislative Trouble Brewing for Aquarium Industry


City Council of Honolulu

Here’s something straight out of a Snorkel Bob wet dream (pun intended, of course). A new draft of a 42-page bill aimed at the aquarium industry has surfaced in Hawaii earlier this year. In October, Maui County introduced “A Bill for an Act Relating to Aquarium Aquatic Life”. The purpose of this misguided bill is to increase the regulations on aquatic life collecting in an attempt to protect and eventually restore Hawaiian reefs. The reason for the bill’s introduction is idea that current regulations are not doing enough to prevent aquatic life depletion because commercial permits allow for the “unlimited collection of aquatic life”.

Continue reading below for our take on this bill, as well as its connection with Robert Wintner (aka Snorkel Bob).

I, for one, know this last statement to be completely false. Current collecting regulations are vastly overlooked in the literature of the bill. Instead, the bill’s author leads readers to believe that there are currently no catch limits. There hasn’t been unlimited collecting in Hawaii for decades. Corals cannot be collected at all, and divers are only allowed to take fish and invertebrates. Additionally, there is a limit as to how many of certain fish a collector is allowed to take. The last major oversight in this bill is the environmental impact of such things as global warming and eutrification. Neither are discussed as potential threats to Hawaiian reefs, instead the aquarium industry is solely to blame for any and all damages.

Reading on, I came across a very interesting statement:

Aquarium collecting is having major impacts on Oahu and Hawaii reefs and moderate impacts on Maui reefs where over-harvesting is reducing the marine tourism experience.

Two points on this. For starters, this bill doesn’t have the health of the reef in mind. It’s only focus is on the tourism industry (Snorkel Bob anyone?). Secondly, the marine tourism industry is just as damaging to natural reefs as aquarium collecting, if not more. A few hundred tourists per day standing on coral heads, littering, and taking living souvenirs is far more damaging than a much smaller number of collectors who do have limits as to what they can take. The collectors are out there for a specific purpose and their livelihood depends on the health of the ecosystems. They do not wrecklessly stand on corals or cover corals with sand getting blown around by fins, and they typically don’t take things that are restricted.

I am a huge advocate of protecting natural reefs, but this bill’s primary focus is on filling Snorkel Bob’s wallet. Get the collectors out of Hawaii so he can sell dive trips and snorkeling gear. This is not how it should be done, and Snorkel Bob is an absolute disgrace to protection of Hawaiian ecosystems.

There are several specifics in this bill that we will try to follow up on shortly. Feel free to read the bill and let us know what you think.


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  • Terry

    Really, how can they justify these lies when they are in print? To say that tourism does not harm the reefs is casting a blind eye. Can't something be done to stop this slandering of the aquarium trade?

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  • With just a bit more research, you'd realize that there are ZERO catch limits on Hawaii's aquarium trade. Fish and invertebrates (other than coral) are taken in unlimited numbers. This has led to a state aquatic biologist to finally admit last month that the trade is unsustainable. That's because 10 years of trying to regulate the trade by closing off 35% of Kona's reefs to them has resulted in yellow tangs in the unprotected areas 45% lower than they're already depleted numbers that prompted this management attempt 10 years ago. Many animals taken by the trade are listed in Hawaii's Species of Greatest Conservation Need and the aquarium trade is listed as the sole reason for their threatened status. The aquarium trade is acknowledged by state biologists as causing the near complete disappearance (compared to 1970 levels) of Hawaiian Turkeyfish, Bandit Angelfishes and Thornback Cowfishes.

    The primary focus of the bill is to protect Hawaii's coral reef wildlife from the unbridled marine aquarium trade. This wildlife is important to the reefs, important to tourism, important to the culture and there's no reason to sacrifice it for a hobby where 20 – 40% of the animals taken are dead before reaching the end consumer. That level of waste is just not acceptable to society – anywhere.

    • ForThePeople

      Sigh. More MISINFROMATION from an unscrupulous dive shop operator who is willing to teach children that lying about your passion is perfectly acceptable. FortheFishes is well known throughout hawaii for being the paid lackey of snorkel bob. Legislators and marine biologists for the state are very weary of forthefishes consistently inaccurate represenation of what is actually happening. FortheFishes continued pursuit of an outright ban on collecting does a grave diservice to the reef conservation movement. Instead of focusing on the real reasons for reef decline, forthefishes continues to peddle a special brand of B.S. while leaving unchecked the huge companies that develop on the shoreline and the counties that permit sewage injection wells which seep into the ocean leading to alge blooms that no surgeonfish will enjoy. forthefishes legacy is one of shame as the distaction provided by her and her rich seer snorkel bob will ensure that the tragic legacy of reef decline is accelerated. Perhaps in their lifetime they will understand the consquences of their myopic and destructive distraction from the real threaats, but their ego and tiny brains work together to prevent this.

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