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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