Tuesday | August 22, 2017
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Letters 6-28-13

Fish collecting

It’s time to limit it; save our reefs

The recent decision regarding the systematic, frequent, for profit collection of our reef fish by the aquarium trade is very disappointing. It is against the law and frowned upon to harvest and remove river stones, sand and coral from our streams and beaches. We also cannot go on public lands and harvest koa and other plants for profit. Why is this? Because we know from experience how decimated an area becomes and besides that, these things belong to the people and, most importantly, the future generations. Too much harvesting is not sustainable. Our shoreline and the waters fronting them belong to the people. The life within our reefs belongs to all of us. We know so little about how this ecosystem functions and we can see from other islands that this system is fragile and very effected by detrimental activities such as run off, spills, cruel and predatory fish harvesting practices, etc.

Our Kona and Kohala coasts are two of the best areas to see reef fish and beautiful coral on all of the Hawaiian islands. In many other areas, 60 percent or more of the reef fish are gone. On a trip several years ago to Molokini on Maui, I was surprised to see so few fish. Last year, when snorkeling in a bay on Kauai’s Napali Coast, I was shocked that there were no fish. Do we want Kona to become as lifeless as other parts of the state?

It is estimated that there are more than 700,000 saltwater aquariums across the United States. This is a big business and we are one of the few places where these fish come from. The practice of harvesting and selling our fish is not sustainable.

Not only do these fish belong to all of us, they are part of what draws part of our primary industry — the vacation traveler to these islands. In a recent article, Ron Tubbs, a fish collector, was quotedas syaing it is only tour operators who oppose this practice. This statement is not true. This is a grass-roots effort. Most people who enjoy the ocean will want to protect the life within in it and have seen the slow and steady decline of our fish. Don’t get me wrong , I am not against fishing or spearfishing for food. That is our right, although I would like to see more areas off limits.

We need to make illegal the systematic and unsustainable harvesting and selling of our reef fish. Perhaps our airlines would like to help out by not allowing these live animals to be transported.

Bill Aila, the head of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, who also holds a collector license, needs to put his own interest aside and do the right thing. Think about what your future generations will inherit from the current practice.

Hopefully, the recent decision by1st Circuit Court Judge Jeannette Castagnetti will be overturned by an appeal. I would encourage everyone who is against the aquarium trade to speak out. Together we can make a difference.

Alice Hughes