KAHULUI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Protestors are targeting a Maui pet store. They're upset about the sale of Hawaii's reef fish. More than 30 people took part in the three-hour demonstration along Dairy Road near the Petco store in Kahului.
"The fish are dying in there. We told them, 'Please don't do that. It's not good for the ocean. It's not good for you,' but they didn't listen," said Oriana Kalama, a member of Ocean Defender Hawaii.
"We learned last week that one of their baby tangs had died, and we've been asking them to please not sell coral reef wildlife because it cannot survive in captivity," said Rene Umberger, from forthefishes.org.
When asked, store officials could not confirm the allegation. Petco Hawaii said it sells mainly freshwater fish at its five locations in the islands.
"We do sell captive-bred fish whenever possible, and if not, we partner with our vendors who we believe practice responsible and sustainable practices," explained marketing manager Annette Groscup.
According to Petco Hawaii, when the Maui location opened in August 2010, the store only sold freshwater fish.
"Based on local customer demand, we did just this past October, October 2011, did add a small assortment of marine fish based on those customer demands," said Groscup.
Protestors said two laws passed by Maui County chased the fish collectors away, but the measure dealing with animal cruelty doesn't apply to retailers.
"They are not breaking any laws right now, but they are breaking what we believe are moral laws regarding using animals in an unethical way, taking animals and selling them when they are doomed to die very early on," said Umberger.
According to forthefishes.org, between capture and sale, up to 40% of Hawaii's yellow tangs die before reaching the pet owners.
"We have recently decided through our customer feedback that we would no longer carry some native Hawaiian species, specifically yellow tangs and yellow eye kole tangs," said Groscup.
Petco Hawaii said the process is already in place, and those fish will be gone from its stores within the next two weeks. Groscup said Petco is a founding sponsor of an initiative called "Rising Tide" that promotes and develops additional captive breeding opportunities for marine fish.
The protestors plan to return next week.