Kole Tang, It’s What’s for Dinner


If keeping fish in our aquariums is considered immoral by the anti-aquarium activists of Hawaii, then what about eating them? Both practices permanently remove fish from the ocean, with one focusing on keeping them alive long term and the other worried about filling the space between breakfast and dinner. The grainy video above, which was sent into us by an anonymous reader, shows what we assume to be a small Hawaiian family unit frying up four large Kole tangs (Ctenochaetus strigosus) in preparation for their next meal. A little further along into the clip and we see five more large Kole tangs in a plastic food container also waiting to be fried. That’s a total of 9 large, breeding size Kole tangs that have been removed from the ocean and deep fried. Still further into the clip we find a few packages of store-bought fish products, which are also next up on the menu. Unfortunately, because the video is so grainy and those last fish have been processed, we cannot tell what type of fish they are.

So why do we bring this video to the surface? Are we against fishing for food?

The answer to the second questions is, absolutely not. We fully support both recreational fishing and catching fish for food purposes as long as both are done in responsible ways. The reason we display this video is to show the blatant hypocrisy of the anti-aquarium activists in their constant fight to shut down the aquarium hobby. They stand up on their soap boxes all day, preaching about how the aquarium industry is robbing their reefs of valuable livestock, all the while turning a blind eye to the highly unregulated local population who takes unspecified numbers of fish from the reefs every day only to eat. If Hawaiian reef health was as bad as the activists would have you believe, then why aren’t they also attacking local fisherman who could just as easily wander on down to the nearest grocery store to buy fish? After all, in another video we posted, an anti-aquarium activists suggested that aquarium collectors could simply get another job if they were concerned about supporting their families if the aquarium industry was shut down. Why couldn’t the people in the video above just follow the same rationale and purchase all of their food from the grocery store? Better yet, where’s the outrage from the same folks who masquerade around Hawaii pretending to be for the fish?

The aquarium industry in Hawaii has been shown time and time again to be well managed and well regulated. Collectors have to report their catches to the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) on a very regular basis and scientific data keeps pointing to the fact that fish numbers are on the rise. The industry is sustainable in Hawaii. The anti-aquarium activists know this and they don’t actually care about what is being taken from the ocean or in what quantity. Well, some of them actually do care, but those most outspoken on the issue have other motives behind their actions. They only care about protecting what is near and dear to them…making snorkelers happy, which in turn fattens up their wallets. And because American consumerism is constantly moving more and more toward green and environmentally friendly products and services, the tourism industry is trying their hardest to appeal that to that segment by hanging their hats on the aquarium collection issue.

We could go on and on about the hypocrisies, but I suppose it would be fruitless. We just hate to sit back and see one group of extremists unfairly target one industry on a claim that scientifically collected data doesn’t even support, especially when recreational fishing has been a larger industry in Hawaii than aquarium collection (here’s a link to a very informative graphic). We would also like to point out that from a biological and ecological standpoint, it makes no difference why the fish are being taken from the ocean. Taking fish for the aquarium trade and taking fish for food both result in fish being permanently removed from a breeding population. So again, why target only one industry and leave all others unscathed? Just follow the all-might dollar to answer that question. Tourism is king of Hawaii.


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  • Reefkeeper

    Point well made and demonstrated here.  The biggest local threat to reefs are land development and agriculture.  The biggest treats to reefs overall is climate change.   Do they protest outside Red Lobster too?  Millions more fish are purposely ‘killed’ to suit their purposes and profit than any fish store ever thought of..  The aquarium fear mongers really need to grow a brain – anyone supporting this double-standard bullshit can only be so short-sighted that they must be mentally challenged and have a substantially low IQ.

  • Ucantcme421

    I really don’t see how you can compare a Hawaiian family eating tangs for dinner to the aquarium trade. You have taken this out of context. These people have lived on those islands for years and always had hundreds of thousands of fish. Its not the people eating the fish locally that will impact anything. Its the commercial people just as they say that are making a huge impact. Yes, development and agriculture are large factors too but, they have to deal with that as they go, its not something they can change over night. The aquarium trade taking fish… now thats something they can do with the slam of a gavel. I rarely see eye to eye with you on most things but this is a blog entry that I cant even come close to even trying to get. I liken it to FOX news… unfair and unbalanced.

    • The whole point to the article is not to chastise families for trying to feed themselves. Instead, we are bringing up the hypocrisy of anti-aquarium activists. If they, the activists, were truly concerned about the health of reef fish populations, then they would target not just the aquarium trade, but commercial and recreational fishing as well. They don’t go after these other industries because they have a moral (or more likely a financial) issue with aquarium collecting and could actually care less about the fish. If I’m wrong, please prove it. But Snorkel Bob continues to sit on the sideline when it comes to arguing about snorkeling tourists damaging the reef, land development dumping algae-fueling nutrients into the water, and commercial/recreational fishermen catching and eating whatever they want.

      As for the aquarium trade’s impact in Hawaii…MASNA recently showed a very telling graphic revealing that recreational fishing actually took more reef fish from West Hawaii than the aquarium trade. Not sport fish, not deepwater game fish, but reef fish.

      And as we said in the article, we don’t have a single issue with a family catching local fish and eating them. Just read the first line of the second full paragraph. As for you not being able to agree with our viewpoints…what can I say? We are passionate about the aquarium industry and we encourage you to form your own thoughts and opinions on the matter.