Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

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

Deserted view of NH24 near Akshardham Temple on day nine of the 21-day nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus on April 2, 2020 in New Delhi, India. Raj K Raj / Hindustan Times via Getty Images

India is home to 21 of the world's 30 most polluted cities, but recently air pollution levels have started to drop dramatically as the second-most populated nation endures the second week of a 21-day lockdown amidst coronavirus fears, according to The Weather Channel.

Read More Show Less
A Unicef social mobilizer uses a speaker as she carries out public health awareness to prevent the spread and detect the symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus by UNICEF at Mangateen IDP camp in Juba, South Sudan on April 2. ALEX MCBRIDE / AFP / Getty Images

By Eddie Ndopu

  • South Africa is ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic in Africa.
  • Its townships are typical of high-density neighbourhoods across the continent where self-isolation will be extremely challenging.
  • The failure to eradicate extreme poverty is a threat beyond the countries in question.
Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The outside of the Food and Drug Administration headquarters in White Oak, Md. on Nov. 9, 2015. Al Drago / CQ Roll Call

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of two malarial drugs to treat and prevent COVID-19, the respiratory infection caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, despite only anecdotal evidence that either is proven effective in treating or slowing the progression of the disease in seriously ill patients.

Read More Show Less
Some speculate that the dissemination of the Antarctic beeches or Nothofagus moorei (seen above in Australia) dates to the time when Antarctica, Australia and South America were connected. Auscape / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

A team of scientists drilled into the ground near the South Pole to discover forest and fossils from the Cretaceous nearly 90 million years ago, which is the time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, as the BBC reported.

Read More Show Less
The recovery of elephant seals is one of the "signs of hope" that scientists say show the oceans can recover swiftly if we let them. NOAA / CC BY 2.0

The challenges facing the world's oceans are well known: plastic pollution could crowd out fish by 2050, and the climate crisis could wipe out coral reefs by 2100.

Read More Show Less