Welcome to the Hawaii Tropical Saltwater Aquarium Fish Sustaiability Report! This site is dedicated to the love for Tropical Marine Fish and the Oceans in Hawaii.
Marine scientists, ecologists and the Hawaii Government members are interested in the issue of sustainability for the Hawaii Tropical Fish Industry and the future of our fisheries. Much research and data has been collected over the years. This report is a quick look at the issues associated with Hawaii Tropical Fish Industry.
Many agree that the World’s healthiest and highest quality fish come from Hawaii. The Hawaii tropical fish collector has been known as the best for ecological friendly collecting for over 50 years. The World’s fishermen and ecologists have looked to Hawaii for development of industry collecting methods.
Hawaii’s laws and collecting practices have been a positive influence and helped protect fish and fish habitats around the world.
Thanks to the State of Hawaii Department of Land and natural Resources (DLNR), NOAA, HURL and the University of Hawaii SOEST for all their efforts, research and resulting laws which have protected Hawaii's ocean and reefs. They continue to do an amazing job increasing Hawaii's Ocean beauty.
Hawaii's Fish Populations Increase
Videos show tropical fish swarming state's reefs
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
It's being called a spawning event of "Biblical" proportions -- a summer swarm of fish over Hawaii's reefs. Aquarium fisherman and underwater photographer Ron Tubbs shot video off Oahu's coastline showing the population explosion.
I made a special trip last week to see it and video it myself. It really is unlike anything anyone has ever seen," Rene Umberger said. Even anti fishing activists agree there lots tons of reef fish right now all across Hawaii.
"In 35 years this is the most fish I have ever seen. For most species, it's just incredible. It's just amazing. Areas where you see hundreds of fish normally, that's a lot of fish for an area, you're seeing thousands of fish," Ron Tubbs said "This year the numbers are just exceptional."
What about Aquarium fishing in Hawaii?
January 2014 saw the new Kona aquarium fish rules go into law. Aquarium fishermen and Kona DLNR scientists created stricter laws for an already sustainably fishery. Dr. Bill Walsh now advocates for these fishermen due to their cooperation and efforts to maintain fish populations.
The same thing has been done on Oahu with the DLNR researchers there. The Oahu DLNR scientists also believe we are already sustainable but agree further regulations can help to protect our reef fish. The Oahu rules should go in to effect sometimes in 2015. As a result we have wide spread support from many members of Hawaii’s legislature, DNLR and UH scientists and even private eco groups who once opposed us. Aquarium fishermen continue to work with researchers to make it the greatest sustainably fishery in the world. The oceans belong to all and to protect them and preserve it wonders is the job of all ocean users.
What do Hawaii’s ocean researchers say about aquarium fish collecting?
Here are some shortened quotes from Public testimony Hawaii County Council testimony 2014, Hawaii news now and West Hawaii Today news excerpts.
Dr. Bill Walsh October 2014:
In my capacity as the West Hawai’i Aquatic Biologist for the Division of Aquatic Resources I have been involved in the management and biological monitoring of the West Hawai’i aquarium fishery for over 15 years.
I would like to share with you some of the results of our latest monitoring efforts as they relate to the issue at hand. Two species, the Yellow Tang and Kole make up over 93% of all aquarium fish caught in West Hawai’i. Since the no-aquarium collecting Fish Replenishment Areas (FRAs) were established in 1999 (protecting 35% of the coastline), the numbers of Yellow Tang have increased in the FRAs by almost 65% while not significantly decreasing in the remaining Open Areas. In the 30’-60’ depth range alone, the numbers of Yellow Tang in West Hawai’i have increased by 1.3 million fish. Similarly Kole populations have increased not only in the FRAs (by 24%) but also in the Open Areas as well (by 28%). Kole populations in the same depth range have increased by over 2 million fish! Clearly resource management efforts are working in West Hawai’i.
Scientific studies which have indeed found high levels of mortality among aquarium fishes have typically been conducted in remote areas with poor handling capabilities. That is clearly not the case in Hawai’i.
~ Dr. William Walsh
Division of Aquatic Resources
State of Hawaii DLNR
Dr. Dan Polhemus:
It is a good thing for folks to scrutinize and ask questions about what’s going on in our fisheries and on our reefs. These are important to all of us. A realistic perspective does need to be maintained however. Let me elaborate. On Maui in 2009 there were a total of 16,300 aquarium animals caught, representing 82 different species. Yellow tangs accounted for 69% while Kole was 7% of the catch. During that same year non-aquarium commercial fishers captured (and killed) 319,491 reef fishes of 75 species. While yellow tangs weren’t caught to any degree there was considerable overlap in a number of the other species. To the commercial food catch one can add another 480,000 reef fish taken by recreational/subsistence fishers (extrapolated from 2006 NOAA Rec Fishing Survey data). So, in the grand scheme of things, the aquarium take on Maui is literally a drop in the bucket, representing less than 2% of the total mortality of reef animals that year. This serves to point out that undue focus and hyperbole about aquarium collecting and its impact on the reefs is dangerously shortsighted and counterproductive. We need to think and act holistically.
Hope I didn’t overwhelm you with numbers. (as of 2014 no aquarium fish collectors were taking fish on Maui and the number of collectors state wide have decreased and so has catch.)
~ Dr. DAN A. POLHEMUS
Division of Aquatic Resources
State of Hawaii DLNR
Emily S. Munday, M.S.
For my master’s research at Washington State University, I studied the West Hawaii aquarium trade from 2010-2012. Part of my study focused on holding and transport of live yellow tang in the West Hawaii aquarium trade.
My research on fish holding and transport indicated that the practices implemented by Hawaiian fish exporters do not cause mortality in yellow tang. In June of 2012, I collaborated with fishers and exporters in Kona, and caught 60 yellow tang from the reef, held them in a working export facility, and shipped them from Kona, HI to Portland, OR. The fish were then transported to the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, OR where they resided for 6 months. My study shows 100% survival rate of these tangs during collection, holding in the export facility, air transport, and after a 6-month holding period. In fact, the fish have now become part of an exhibit at the Hatfield Marine Science Center about sustainability in the aquarium trade and I have received no reports of mortality after 2.5 years.
Emily S. Munday, M.S.
Washington State University
As far as aquarium related mortality in Hawaii goes here’s a quote from a Cesar 2002 study “Mortality rates of aquarium fish are low and have gone down considerably since the last survey in 1984. Currently, mortality rates from collection to wholesaler are estimated at 0 to 1 percent. In the wholesaler's tanks, mortality rates range from close to 0% up to 2%. During shipment, rates range from 0.75% to 2%. This give a current total of between 1% and 5%, down from a range of 5% to 8% in the early 1980’s (van Poolen and Obara, 1984; estimates of wholesalers and collectors, own study).
~ Dr. DAN A. POLHEMUS
These studies quoted are old and much better technology and care techniques now exist so we are sure it is an even lower rate today. Decreased transport times due to better roads and more airline flights make it even easier to ship shipments with no DOA at all. Life extension techniques are used by the hobbyist at all times. Customers demand such care. Life spans of fish can be greatly increased in captivity. Many aquarium fish hobbyists tout their ability to increase fish pets life spans. Several cases have pet fish owners keeping fish alive for 15 years.
Life span of the average fish in the wild can be very short. Without enough food and the predators eating many smaller fish survivability to adult breeding state is only 2%. In 2014 a much bigger percentage survived due to increases in plankton due mainly to changes in currents. If the food is there the 1-5 million fry per adult pair spawning can result in astronomical population growth. This has resulted in biblical increases in fish populations in fall of 2014.
A few species like Angels only produce 10,000 fry per spawning which is way below the norm for most reef fish. Even those species are doing great in population numbers. Fish are very efficient breeders.
~ Ron Tubbs B.S. N.D.
University of Hawaii
Tina Owens executive director of the LOST FISH Coalition, Member West Hawaii Fisheries Council says:
A great deal of the “sky is falling” news you’ve heard about the reef recently is just plain not true.
Try giving credit to the thousands of volunteer hours given by your neighbors to the West Hawaii Fisheries Council to get the gains you are now free to enjoy. (done with the help of Aquarium Fishermen on the council who agreed to the laws)
Lost Fish Coalition, through the venue of the West Hawaii Fisheries Council, has been working with many stakeholders to get a reasonable settlement to the long-standing problem of the aquarium industry harvest. In almost 16 years, we have accomplished the following management actions:
• We have 55-plus miles of coastline where reef fish cannot be taken. These areas allow the fish to grow large enough to be very successful breeders. These areas — Fish Replenishment Areas — are the nurseries for the reef fish to spread out to the rest of the reefs.
Thanks to these measures, West Hawaii has more fish than most every other widely accessed reef in the state, especially the beautiful ornamentals that give tourists and residents so much delight. If someone says that nothing has been done in West Hawaii, they are either lying, unaware or are being duped by someone else’s lies about the situation. There are a few “outsiders,” by which I mean people who don’t live here, who have decided that West Hawaii doesn’t know what it’s doing. This group, headed by Maui resident Robert Wintner, and Wintner’s frontman Rene Umberger, decided it was going to be the ones to get aquarium collecting banned, to make themselves the “rescuers of the reef.”
Clearly if the goal is to get rid of the industry and management prevents that goal being reached, then discrediting the benefits and successes of management would seem the only way left to go. And so they have taken that path.
They have held community meetings and displayed a lot of false or twisted data, quoting from papers outdated by more than 15 years, and “re-interpreting” data from scientific papers. They have been telling people that “there are no fish left,” which is patently untrue. I once had a woman tell me with great passion and assurance that there are no fish left anywhere in West Hawaii. I asked her why she thought that, and she replied that everyone knew it. I asked if she swam in the ocean. No. Did she dive? No. Did she know anything about the management strategies in place? No. She had, however, just come from an “information session” in which she heard these things from Wintner’s frontman Rene Umberger.
Which brings me back to the wide-screen TV. The TV runs a 90-minute loop of undisturbed, natural activity of fish on the reef. Apparently, the footage was filmed on West Hawaii reefs. The article states: “Wintner praised the videos. ‘It shows what abundance looks like,’ Wintner said.”
At least he got that right.
~ Tina Owens, executive director of the LOST FISH Coalition, Member West Hawaii Fisheries Council and resident of Kailua-Kona.
See for yourself News links: