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Hawaii council postpones action on aquarium fish

November 19, 2014

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — A Hawaii County Council committee has postponed action on a bill that would regulate the shipping of aquarium fish, saying members need more scientific information.

The move means the new council will likely take up the legislation after new members are sworn in next month, West Hawaii Today (http://bit.ly/1yq4eAB ) reported.

The bill, sponsored by Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, prohibits the withholding of food from fish for more than 24 hours and requires fish to be shipped in a minimum of 1 gallon of water per fish.

More than 85 people spoke in person or submitted written testimony in favor of the bill. About 30 were opposed.

Puna Councilman Greggor Ilagan asked for more time, saying he doesn’t have background knowledge about the industry.

Ilagan said he also sees an ulterior motive in the bill. “It’s really a different method of banning in having additional expenses so the industry doesn’t survive,” he said.

Most council members said they would completely ban the collection of commercial aquarium fish if they could.

“I don’t want to hear about the scientific stuff, because I don’t believe we should be shipping our fish out,” Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter said. “These are our resources that people are taking for free. . What are we doing to our island?”

Three-quarters of the aquarium fish caught in Hawaii is captured off the Kona coast.

The fish are collected in state waters, and the state Board of Land and Natural Resources regulates the business. The state last year adopted several new rules for the industry, including limiting the collection of aquarium fish to a list of 40 species.

Advocates of the council bill say too many fish are being taken from Hawaii Island’s reefs for out-of-state aquarium hobbyists and too few survive the trip.

Inga Gibson, Hawaii senior state director for state affairs for the Humane Society of the United States, said statistics support increased regulation of the collection of aquarium fish. Five percent of fish are dead on arrival at their destinations, and up to 15 percent die in the first two weeks, she said.

“These fish are being treated like cut flowers,” Gibson said. “When they die, you just collect another one.”

Opponents of the measure, including representatives from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and area fish collectors, dispute the mortality numbers, saying they are taken from an old study in the Philippines and Indonesia and have no bearing on current fish-collection practices in the United States.

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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