Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Groups File Suit to Protect Hawai'i’s Reef Ecosystems

Climate

Earthjustice

Hawai'i’s reefs and coastal areas are at risk from unlimited collection of fish and other wildlife for the aquarium trade. Photo credit: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Citizens and conservation groups took legal action yesterday to require the Hawai'i Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to protect Hawai'i’s reefs and coastal areas from unlimited collection of fish and other wildlife for the aquarium trade. Specifically, the groups are asking DLNR to conduct environmental reviews—including an examination of cumulative damage to the state’s reefs—before granting permits that allow unlimited aquarium collection of marine wildlife in coastal waters.  

Earthjustice filed the complaint under the Hawai'i Environmental Policy Act in the First Circuit Court on behalf of Rene Umberger, Mike Nakachi, Kaimi Kaupiko, Willie Kaupiko, Conservation Council for Hawai'i, The Humane Society of the U.S., and the Center for Biological Diversity.  

“DLNR owes it to the people of Hawai'i to take a hard look at the effects of aquarium collection on our coral reefs before it allows these ecologically-valuable animals to be shipped to the mainland for private profit,” said Earthjustice attorney Caroline Ishida.

Aquarium collectors capture hundreds of thousands of fish and invertebrates from Hawai'i’s reefs every year. Alarmingly, DLNR has stated that this should be considered a minimum estimate because it does not verify the accuracy of submitted catch reports.  

The collected animals are primarily herbivorous, reef-dwellers that serve unique functions in the coral reef ecosystem, such as helping to control algae growth. Studies have shown that reducing diversity of reef fish and shellfish affects a reef’s ability to respond to stresses or disturbances. This is vitally important as reefs come under serious pressure from global threats, including climate change and ocean acidification. DLNR has not conducted any studies showing how its policy of handing out permits for the asking will affect Hawai'i’s reefs over time.

The complaint seeks a court order to force the state to comply with the Hawai'i Environmental Policy Act’s requirement to examine aquarium collection’s effects on the environment before issuing collection permits. The complaint also asks the court to halt collection under existing commercial aquarium permits and to stop DLNR from issuing new permits until the environmental review is complete.

“Our coral reefs are among Hawai'i’s most precious resources, and DLNR should have all of the available information about aquarium collection before deciding whether to issue these permits,” said Marjorie Ziegler, of Conservation Council for Hawai'i.

There is currently no limit on the number of aquarium permits that DLNR can issue and no limit on the number of animals a commercial collector can take under a permit. Aquarium collection can occur anywhere in the state, except in designated protected areas, but primarily occurs in waters around O'ahu and along the west coast of the island of Hawai'i. DLNR has expressed concern in official reports over the increasing number of collectors in the state and the growing number of animals harvested from the reefs by the aquarium trade.

“I have done thousands of scuba dives on reefs around the state over the years, and I have seen a noticeable difference in reef health between areas that are open to collection and those where collection is prohibited,” said Rene Umberger. “DLNR needs to fulfill its basic public duty to examine this practice before issuing permits that allow collectors to remove many thousands of animals from the reefs every year, particularly because of the global stresses reefs are facing.”

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Women walk from Santa Monica beach after a social media workout on the sand on May 12, 2020 in Santa Monica, California. Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Independence Day weekend is a busy time for coastal communities as people flock to the beaches to soak up the sun during the summer holiday. This year is different. Some of the country's most popular beach destinations in Florida and California have decided to close their beaches to stop the surge in coronavirus cases.

Read More Show Less
Daily fireworks in many U.S. cities in recent weeks have no doubt been interfering with the sleep and peace of mind of thousands of veterans and others who suffer from PTSD. Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Arash Javanbakht

For some combat veterans, the Fourth of July is not a time to celebrate the independence of the country they love. Instead, the holiday is a terrifying ordeal. That's because the noise of fireworks – loud, sudden, and reminiscent of war – rocks their nervous system. Daily fireworks in many U.S. cities in recent weeks have no doubt been interfering with the sleep and peace of mind of thousands of veterans.

Read More Show Less
Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs. Mathias Appel / Flickr

Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs, warns a year-long inquiry into Australia's "most loved animal." The report published by the Parliament of New South Wales (NSW) paints a "stark and depressing snapshot" of koalas in Australia's southeastern state.

Read More Show Less
NASA is advancing tools like this supercomputer model that created this simulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to better understand what will happen to Earth's climate if the land and ocean can no longer absorb nearly half of all climate-warming CO2 emissions. NASA/GSFC

By Jeff Berardelli

For the past year, some of the most up-to-date computer models from the world's top climate modeling groups have been "running hot" – projecting that global warming may be even more extreme than earlier thought. Data from some of the model runs has been confounding scientists because it challenges decades of consistent projections.

Read More Show Less
A child stands in what is left of his house in Utuado, Puerto Rico, which was almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Maria, on Oct. 12, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios. Flickr, CC by 2.0
By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

To hear many journalists tell it, the spring of 2020 has brought a series of extraordinary revelations. Look at what the nation has learned: That our health-care system was not remotely up to the challenge of a deadly pandemic. That our economic safety net was largely nonexistent. That our vulnerability to disease and death was directly tied to our race and where we live. That our political leadership sowed misinformation that left people dead. That systemic racism and the killing of Black people by police is undiminished, despite decades of protest and so many Black lives lost.
Read More Show Less
President Trump's claim last September that Hurricane Dorian was headed for Alabama's gulf coast was quickly refuted by employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). An independent investigation found that NOAA's chief violated the agency's ethics when he backed Trump's warning and doctored map that used a Sharpie to alter the storm's path, as EcoWatch reported.
Read More Show Less

Trending

African bush elephants in the Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve in Botswana on Nov. 22, 2016. Michael Jansen / Flickr

More than 350 elephants have died in Botswana since May, and no one knows why.

Read More Show Less