Conservation coalition sues state for failing to regulate aquarium pet trade

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Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 3:21 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 13, 2021 at 3:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A coalition of conservation groups, Native Hawaiian fishers and cultural practitioners are suing the state Land Board for failing to protect west Hawaii reefs and coastal areas from the aquarium pet trade.

In a complaint filed by Earthjustice, the coalition said the Board failed to regulate the fishing of aquarium pets by accepting the latest environmental impact statement submitted by trade representatives.

The group said the EIS submitted by trade representatives violates state environmental protection laws, which they said allows traders to continue the extraction hundreds of thousands of Hawaii fish each year.

“BLNR’s failure to reject this latest EIS is a travesty for our reefs,” said Rene Umberger, executive director of For the Fishes. “BLNR’s lack of decisive action tells aquarium trade players that there’s no need to comply with Hawaii’s environmental protection laws.”

The coalition said commercial aquarium fish collectors have been plundering West Hawaii waters for small reef fish for decades, exporting them to aquarium fish wholesalers and retailers across the continental United States.

“Hawaii’s reefs are the lifelines of our ocean,” said Maxx Phillips, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Hawaii director and staff attorney. “They put food on our families’ tables, provide habitat for a myriad of endemic species, and shelter our islands from ever increasing storms and sea-level rise.”

The state declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying that it is a pending legal matter.

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