Worth the read and to act whilst we can….

Endangered Species Listings Could End Trade in Stony Corals
URGENT Call for Concerned Aquarists to Write Objections

Will U.S. Fish & Wildlife inspectors be able to ID incoming stony corals?
Photo Credit: Scott W. Michael/Aquarium Corals
(Unidentified Acropora, Indonesia.)

PIJAC, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, issued a call to action on April 3rd, 2013, for everyone involved in the aquarium industry and hobby to submit public commentary in response to the NOAA Proposal to list 66 CORAL Species on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as we first reported late November, 2012.

You have less than 48 hours remaining to submit your public comment (electronic submissions are closed after 11:59 PM EDT, April 5th, 2013). Mail submissions must be postmarked April 6th.

Public commentary is a fundamental core part of the ESA listing process, so don’t think what you say won’t make a difference – it certainly could.

We are providing expanded commentary on the NOAA ESA Coral Petition issue in another article today; if you’re unfamiliar we encourage you to become invested in the implications this proposal has for you as an aquarist.

For those already familiar with the issue and simply looking for instructions, you can view the full PIJAC press release with instructions.  We’ve also excerpted a portion here.

Recommended Action:

PIJAC urges people involved with the ornamental marine trade and hobby to not only submit their personal comments, but also forward this PetAlert to others involved with marine organisms, marine products, and marine retailers. COMMENTS MUST BE SUBMITTED BY APRIL 6, 2013. See below for instructions on how and where to submit your comments.

Comments should include a brief description of your involvement with coral activities. Your comments should be in your own words – do not simply copy the talking points.

Comments should be addressed to:

Regulatory Branch Chief
Protected Resources Division
National Marine Fisheries Service
Pacific Islands Regional Office
1601 Kapiolani Blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96814
Attn: 82 Coral Species Proposed Listing


Assistant Regional Administrator,
Protected Resources,
National Marine Fisheries Service,
Southeast Regional Office,
263 13th Avenue South,
Saint Petersburg, FL 33701,
Attn: 82 coral species proposed listing

Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments NO LATER THAN APRIL 5 via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal www.regulations.gov. To submit comments via the e-Rulemaking Portal, first click the “submit a comment” icon, then enter NOAA-NMFS-2010-0036 in the keyword search. Locate the document you wish to comment on from the resulting list and click on the “Submit a Comment” icon on the right of that line. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. E-submissions must be filed by 11:59 pm EDT on April 5 when the system shuts down. If you encounter problems filing electronically FAX and mail a copy.

Mail: Submit written comments to Regulatory Branch Chief, Protected Resources Division, National Marine Fisheries Service, Pacific Islands Regional Office, 1601 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 1110, Honolulu, HI 96814; or Assistant Regional Administrator, Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Avenue South, Saint Petersburg, FL 33701, Attn: 82 coral species proposed listing. Must be postmarked no later than April 6 and to be safe send April 5.

Fax: 808-973-2941; Attn: Protected Resources Regulatory Branch Chief; or 727-824-5309; Attn: Protected Resources Assistant Regional Administrator.
Postal or Fax Submissions: If responding by mail, make sure the envelope is postmarked/date stamped on or before April 6. PIJAC recommends that you also FAX a copy to NMFS.

For any questions about this proposal and responding to it, contact PIJAC at info@pijac.org or Marshall Meyers at marshall@pijac.org.

Download or view the full PIJAC release

What’s Being Proposed and What’s An Aquarist to Do?

Acropora verweyi, one of 66 stony coral species proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

Opinion By Matt Pedersen,
Aquaculturist & CORAL Magazine Senior Editor

“Don’t overlook the at-home implications of an ESA listing.  Being listed as an endangered species under the ESA makes it illegal to own or propagate the species under the “Take Prohibition”—”Endangered species, their parts, or any products made from them may not be imported, exported, possessed, or sold” according to the Earth Justice Citizen’s Guide to the ESA.

MattPedersen“It is unclear that there would be any legal way to provide exceptions or grandfather in past legal ownership or propagation.  Could your next “20,000 Leagues Lokani” frag be your last, or worse, do you have to grind your entire Candy Cane Coral colony into a pulp or risk jail time or fines for owning it, despite having purchased it legally years prior?

“Should these listings go into effect, will the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have a “Reefer’s Amnesty Day” where we can all turn in our then contraband livestock?

“Pragmatically, the aquarium-industry implications of this proposal are such that we could quite literally all return to keeping fish-only marine aquariums.  That is, we’ll be fine with fish until we have to deal with any successful efforts by the Center for Biological Diversity to list Amphiprion percula as an endangered species under the ESA (at which point am I required by law to flush the 200 baby Percula Clownfish I spawned and reared in my basement or risk civil and criminal penalties for owning a newly-dubbed “endangered species”?).”  Read the full commentary…

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April 9, 2013 - 5:45 PM No Comments

Cites moves to protect Sharks and Rays

CITES Moves to Protect Sharks & Rays

26 Mar, 2013

Manta Ray, Manta birostris, now protected by CITES Listing. Photo Credit: Guy Stevens

BANGKOK   Five species of oceanic sharks along with two species of manta rays will now be subject to international trade regulation under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, a move that some shark advocates hope could save these threatened species from total collapse.

The required two-thirds of the 177 CITES member governments voted to protect these animals, the Oceanic Whitetip and Porbeagle Sharks, three species of hammerhead sharks, and two species of manta rays‚ marking an increase in the number of sharks protected by CITES from three to eight species. The Freshwater Sawfish, Pristis microdon, or “Sawtooth Shark,” is actually the member of a small family of rays and is found in fresh water and brackish waters in the Indo-Pacific and Australia.

The presence of healthy shark populations has been found to be a key bioindicator of the health reef ecosystems, including corals, herbivorous fishes, and food webs.

Scalloped hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini) are listed as globally Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Photo Credit: Shawn Heinrichs for the Pew Environment Group

CITES has been the subject of intense criticism for its unwillingness to protect other large oceanic species, such as the Bluefin Tuna, that are heavily exploited for food fisheries.

“Today was the most significant day for the ocean in the 40-year history of CITES,” said Susan Lieberman, director of international environment policy at The Pew Charitable Trusts who have expended vigorous efforts to establish protections for these species.

“This is a major win for some of the world’s most-threatened shark species, with action now required to control the international trade in their fins. This victory indicates that the global community will collaborate to address the plight of some of the most highly vulnerable sharks and manta ray species.”

Scalloped hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini) are listed as globally Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Photo Credit: Shawn Heinrichs for the Pew Environment Group

Lieberman added that the gridlock created by those who oppose such controls has been broken. Sharks are primarily traded to Asia for use in shark fin soup. Manta rays are caught and killed for their gill rakers‚ the part used to filter their food from the water, to make a purported Asian health tonic.

“The tide is now turning for shark conservation‚ with governments listening to the science and acting in the interest of species conservation and sustainability,” said Elizabeth Wilson, manager of Pew’s global shark conservation campaign. “With these new protections, Oceanic Whitetip, Porbeagle, and Hammerhead sharks will have the chance to recover and once again fulfill their role as top predators in the marine ecosystem.”

Oceanic Whitetip Shark (Carcharhinus longimanus). Photo Credit: Jim Abernathy

Pew added that this commitment by the global community to shark conservation needs to be fully implemented and enforced, and it should be coupled with national and regional efforts to ensure a sustainable future for these and other top oceanic predators, all of which are critical for the health of the wider marine ecosystem.

Fisheries biologist Dr. Daniel Pauly and others have documented the fact that an estimated 90 percent of the world’s large marine predatory species (sharks, tuna, swordfish) have been depleted, and fishing efforts are being focused on ever-smaller forage fishes, such as herring, anchovies, and sardines.

“We are eating bait and moving on to jellyfish and plankton,” says Pauly, of the Fisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

Largetooth or Freshwater Sawfish (Pristis microdon), Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt am Main. Image: EvaK/Wiki

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 143 shark species are threatened with extinction, but few management measures exist to protect them.


Many of these fins come from pelagic shark species. According to the IUCN, over 50 percent of pelagic sharks are Threatened or Near Threatened with extinction. Photo: Shawn Heinrichs for the Pew Environment Group

From materials released March 12, 2013 by the Pew Charitable Trusts Environmental Initiatives.

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April 1, 2013 - 8:50 AM No Comments

Lightning Maroon Clownfish Spawns

First successful hatch after months of frustration

Dubbed the Lightning Maroon Clownfish, the aberrant markings may or may not be a genetically transmitted trait. Both members of the pair were collected in the same area of Papua New Guinea. They were coaxed into this first viable spawn by breeder Matt Pedersen in Duluth, Minnesota. The pair are housed in a 30-gallon cube reef aquarium, below.

STAFF REPORT: It has been two long years since an electrifyingly pigmented Maroon Clownfish,Premnas biaculeatus, was collected in Papua New Guinea and exported to the United States. This emblematic clownfish, the only known living specimen and the second of two aberrant Maroon Clownfish collected in Papua New Guinea in the last few years, has captured the hearts and minds of aquarists around the world (see CORAL, July/August 2011). Matt Pedersen, a breeder in Duluth, Minnesota, has been on a quest to get the fish, a female, to spawn but has admitted to many frustrations via hisLightning Project blog.
lightning-tank“In the past few months The Lightning Project has gone from relatively boring stability to dramatic highs and lows,” he says. Pedersen has been battling ongoing chronic maladies in the broodstock pair, having gone as far as to enlist a fish veterinarian to collaborate in troubleshooting this problem. Finally, however, Pedersen reports having succeeded in coaxing the Lightning Maroon and her mate to produce a healthy clutch of eggs after months of fruitless nesting behaviors.
Pedersen says he used a technique referred to as a “double down,” first shared with him by fellow marine fish breeder Mitch “Booyah” May. By placing a spawning tile with eggs from another clownfish pair, a breeder can sometimes stimulate a reluctant pair to produce their own eggs. The Lightning Maroon pair was successfuly enticed into their first small spawn, which was quickly eaten. Extreme disappointment settled in among all aquarists who are following this drama.
In the past two weeks, the Lightning Maroon and her mate have spawned for a second time, this time with an estimated 310 fertile eggs which they did not consume. “Of course, they’ve continued to throw every trick in the book at me,”says Pedersen. “First, more disease problems surfaced during the incubation of the spawn. No sooner was that problem handled, then it was followed by the early hatching of a single larva. This early hatch could have put the rest of the clutch in jeopardy during what could have been a risky, if not disastrous, artificial incubation and hatch.”
As of July 5th, 2012, Pedersen has reached yet another milestone in the breeding project, introducing APBreed TDO, a larviculture feed, as the Lightning Maroon’s offspring near the next critical and risky step in their development: metamorphosis and settlement.

“It is at settlement when Maroon clownfish first reveal their stripes; it may become known if the ‘lightning trait has appeared in this first generation of offspring,” says Pedersen, a CORAL senior editor. “While it may or may not be immediately apparent, the first possible glimmer may be only days away.”

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July 9, 2012 - 7:42 AM No Comments

Bill Addison - Marine Fish Breeding Pioneer, Dead at 85

Bill Addison, Marine Fish Breeding Pioneer, Dead at 85

By CORAL Editors - Posted on 23 February 2012

Remembering Bill Addison:

“Fishes would see him and spawn”

By Matt Pedersen & The Staff of CORAL

It was the evening of February 17th, when we received word from long-time fish breeder and friend Joe Lichtenbert.

“Some very sad news,” wrote Lichtenbert, “Bill passed away in his sleep last night….Although Bill suffered from diabetes requiring daily injections, pretty bad arthritis, and macular degeneration, he NEVER complained. His famous words of wisdom were, ‘So be it!’.

Bill was a WWII vet. His personal exploits would make you proud to be an American.  The family is not planning any of the normal services. Instead, he will be cremated and his ashes will be spread across the mountain passes in his home state of Wyoming that he so loved. I, and the world, have lost a great and inspirational man.”

William Middleton Addison’s obituary was published on February 22nd in the Wheatland, Wyoming Record-Times and gives us insights beyond the man that was known in the aquarium world as Bill Addison, pioneering marine fish breeder and founder of C-Quest Hatchery.

In his 85 years of life, Addison accomplished and saw more than most, and as Matthew L. Wittenrich retells it: “He dug his first uranium mine by hand, amassed a collection of antique cars, set up a tropical fruit plantation in Central America and a fish hatchery in Puerto Rico.”

Indeed, Addision served in World War II as a Marine, returning afterwards to graduate high school, attend college, and married his wife Arline in 1952.  Addison mined uranium and later white marble in Wyoming. Ultimately Addison sold the mining business to pursue the aforementioned interests, including the C-Quest Hatchery in Puerto Rico which was moved to Wyoming in 2010, as reported in Reefbuilders.

C-Quest is the oldest operating marine ornamental fish hatchery in the country, starting in 1988. In 1997, Joyce Wilkerson wrote an extensive look at the C-Quest facility in Puerto Rico.  The author of Clownfishes(Microcosm, 1998), Wilkerson worked with Bill Addison for a number of years before her death in 2007.

It is interesting to note Wilkerson’s concern over the loss of several hatcheries in the late 90’s, leaving only C-Quest and Joe Lichtenbert’s Reef Propagations Inc. producing captive-bred marine fish for the aquarium industry at that time and fighting an uphill battle for profitability that seems to rage on today.

Lichtenbert retired in 2010, leaving only C-Quest still standing from that early era. C-Quest continues even today, continually extending the longevity record for a commercial marine ornamental hatchery, now under the leadership of Addison’s daughter, Katy.

“Bill’s Black Beauty Maroon,” one of many unusual anemonefishes kept by Addison at C-Quest.

Martin Moe: “Bill and Arline Kept the Marine  Breeding Dream Alive”

Martin Moe, author of The Marine Aquarium Handbook: Beginner to Breeder, recalled the time some 15 years back when asked about Addison’s passing and the impact he had.

“I have known Bill Addison for many years. We had much in common, both in world outlook and marine fish culture interests. We met and spent time together at many conferences and often talked on the phone. Bill wasn’t one for email, he preferred a more direct form of communication.

I dedicated my book, Breeding the Orchid Dottyback to him and Arline:

‘To Bill and Arline Addison, with thanks for keeping the dream alive.’ There was time in the 1990s when ornamental marine fish culture was not the vibrant activity that it is today.  New species were not in development and tank bred fish were on an uphill economic battle with wild caught fish. Some of this remains today, but tank-reared fish are now playing with a much better poker hand (Bill loved a good game of poker).

My dedication was stimulated by the wonderful job Bill and Arline did with the establishment and support of C-Quest, which helped greatly in the development of a market for tank-reared marine fish and in the understanding of the importance of this endeavor.”

When we call Bill Addison a pioneering marine fish breeder, we must point out that he was the third person recognized as a MASNA Aquarist of the Year, in 1997. It’s interesting to note that Bill was only preceded by fellow Aquarists of the Year Martin Moe (1995), and Thomas Frakes (1996), both talented and pioneering breeders cut from the same cloth in the same pioneering era. However, we ought never to judge a man simply by the stature of his peers, but through the words of those who knew him best.

Matt Wittenrich: “He was sharp as a tack”

Wittenrich, author of The Complete Illustrated Guide to Marine Aquarium Fishes, says he was truly fortunate to have met Addison several years ago in Puerto Rico.

Wittenrich recalls that “From the very beginning I respected him. I had known of his pursuits and accomplishments from many years of childhood admiration, but got to know the real Bill spending time with him and Arline at their home in Wyoming.  Bill was a man to be admired….He loved his family, loved his wife, and loved life. He was sharp as a tack, remembering spawning records of fish spawned in his hatchery in 1992.”

Jeff Turner: “Many people learned from him.”

Jeff Turner, who had an early role with Oceans Reefs and Aquaria (ORA),currently the country’s largest marine ornamental aquaculture operation, knew Addison well. Turner now heads up Boyd Enterprises and Reef Aquaria Design.

“With Bill leaving the planet physically, we have lost a tremendous wealth of marine fish knowledge and a guy that certainly owned the knack of marine fish breeding.  Many people learned from him and also taught Bill a thing or two. Todd Gardner, Matt Wittenrich, Martin Moe, Frank Hoff, Joyce Willkerson, Paul Schlicht, Dave Palmer, myself and so many others respected Bill’s opinion, and I think all of us were fond of the fact that Bill could do whatever it was that Bill was going to do.

Bill would want us to press forward with marine ornamental fish breeding and to keep the lines of communication open between ourselves so that more discoveries are made and more species are cracked.”

Edgar Diaz: “Fishes would see him and spawn”

One of the many others Turner alludes to is Edgar Diaz.  Diaz is the proprietor of Addy-Zone Hatcheries in Michigan, and got his start breeding marine fish under Addison at C-Quest.  Diaz remembered that “Bill was the greatest of them all, the master.  Fishes would see him and spawn.

He was a great boss, firm but fair. He believed in what he did and never gave up. He is the person I admire most.  The best thing I learned from him was not about fish – don’t mess around and don’t let people mess with you. Then raise fish.”

And raise fish C-Quest did.  At one time C-Quest employed some 20 people and maintained over 550 broodstock pairs. C-Quest has been a driving force for breeding innovation throughout its history. If you admire the many Red Sea Dottybacks that are available today almost exclusively as affordable captive bred fish, you owe a debt of gratitude to Addison and his crew.

The vast majority of “Onyx Perculas” from captive-bred lines today are descendents of the “C-Quest Line,” the name for the phenotype being coined by Addison himself and shares a distinct breeding history when compared to “Onyx” Perculas caught in the wild – Addison was fortunate enough to recall the story of the Onyx Percula in 2007. Beyond the Onyx Percula, C-Quest is also known for originating the Ocellaris counterpart of a “Platinum Percula,” the harder-to-find and arguably slightly more stunning “Wyoming White” Ocellaris.

“His success in the marine breeding world as a pioneer will never be forgotten and his legacy lives on in one of the longest lineages of captive clownfish,” wrote Wittenrich, now with the University of Florida’s Tropical Aquaculture Lab. “The Onyx clownfish was named after the black onyx stone he mined in Wyoming. The Wyoming White was named after the white marble he mined there too.

Bill has influenced the lives of many and I feel honored to have known him. The stories I learned from Bill could fill a book. One of my favorite memories of Bill was the moment I snapped his portrait. He was happy, doing what he loved,” said Witterich.

Indeed, Jeff Turner’s memories conjure a vision of Addision truly being a die-hard aquarist of the most indulgent kind. “Bill loved the communication/camaraderie with all of the fish people who would gravitate towards Bill as the center of the ornamental marine fish breeding universe” wrote Turner.

While C-Quest certainly is a business, Turner’s take was that “[Bill] never really worried about the money he was spending on his ‘hobby’, or hobbies- the fruit farm in Roatan, and the vast collection of old cars he would restore, and the marine ornamental fish farm in Puerto Rico. After 15 years…I realized that he was not in it for the money. He loved it and liked the discussion with guys like us.”

Leave it to Martin Moe to sum it up perfectly.  “Bill was businessman as well as a hobbyist and innovator. A new species was a challenge to him and a successful rearing brought him great satisfaction. It is difficult to say goodbye.”

Matt Pedersen is a CORAL Senior Contributing Editor and winner of the MASNA Aquarist of the Year in 2009.

Images courtesy Matthew L. Wittenrich, Ph.D.

More from Joe Lichtenbert can be read at ReefBuilders.com

Candid rememberances from Todd Gardner, former C-Quest employee, atReefs.com

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March 3, 2012 - 8:38 AM No Comments

Call for ban on Aquatic Life Collecting in Hawaii

Open season on marinelife collectors in the Hawaiian Islands in 2012.

By Ret Talbot

The State of Hawaii’s twenty-sixth legislature is open for business, and, dismaying to many scientists and marinelife collectors in the state, there are a total of five new measures that have been introduced seeking to ban outright or further regulate the marine aquarium trade in Hawaii.

It is anticipated that several more measures will be introduced before the cut-off date next week. In addition to the new measures, there are at least seven aquarium-related bills re-introduced automatically from last year’s session. In short, it will be a busy season for people on both sides of the marine aquarium fishery debate in Hawaii, and it has never been a more important time to be educated on the issues.

Not a Surprise

The introduction of certain measures like Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 1 (SCR 1) and Senate Resolution No. 2 (SR 2), both introduced on January 18th, is no surprise and does not indicate any documented change in the fishery.

The introduction of these two resolutions—as well as two of the other three measures introduced yesterday—was assured when Kauai attached an anti-aquarium trade resolution to its County Package in November of last year. At that time, and as reported by CORAL, Kauai passed a resolution nearly identical to Big Island’s October resolution urging the State to ban the aquarium trade. As such, both SCR 1 and SR 2 are essentially identical to the Kauai and Big Island resolutions.

At their collective heart, these resolutions claim “Hawaii’s indigenous and endemic aquatic species are being devastated by collection for aquarium purposes.”

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the state agency charged with managing fisheries, disagreed with this statement when testimony was given in opposition to the Big Island resolution seeking to ban the trade last October, and they disagree with it today. DLNR maintains the data actually shows a trend toward sustainability, and while DLNR is currently working on rules packages that will further regulate both the Oahu and the West Hawaii marine aquarium fisheries, the agency contends a statewide ban is unwarranted.

“This is not devastation”

DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) aquatic biologist Dr. William Walsh,right, stated in testimony last October responding to the allegations of devastation, “This is not devastation.” Walsh was speaking specifically to the marine aquarium fishery in West Hawaii, which is by far the largest aquarium fishery in the State. It is also one of the most studied fisheries statewide. Walsh and his colleagues, as well as independent researchers, believe there is no credible scientific data showing a total ban on Hawaii’s marine aquarium fishery is warranted at this time. “We know a lot about what’s happening out there [in the fishery],” says Walsh, who believes whatever is ultimately decided regarding the aquarium fishery will have wider repercussions in other fisheries. “If we can’t successfully manage the aquarium fishery,” Walsh asks, “what hope is there for management of our other fisheries here in Hawaii?”

Trade Opponents Cry “Unsustainable” and “Wildlife Trafficking

Of course many anti-trade activists do not believe the aquarium fishery is being managed sustainably, and they have successfully taken that message to the County Councils in the past year.

Some individuals closely watching the County Councils’ deliberation over the aquarium issue expressed surprise that, at least on Big Island, emotion and anecdotal testimony appeared to trump the State’s data, especially since the same County Council had passed a resolution “recognizing that effective management of the West Hawaii aquarium industry can be achieved through several different management approaches.”

In at least one situation, a councilmember voting in favor of the ban said he did not believe the aquarium issue was a “resource issue,” and he said he trusted the State’s data showing sustainability—yet he voted for the resolution. In the case of Kauai, current fishery data was neither solicited from the State nor presented by the State prior to the Council’s vote. A councilmember who voted in favor of Kauai’s resolution to ban the trade told CORAL at the time that there would be plenty of time to look at the data once the measure reached the Legislature.

Nonetheless, anti-trade activists are encouraged by what they refer to as “momentum against the trade.” “By now everyone knows that coral reefs are the world’s most endangered ecosystems,” says Rene Umberger of the anti-trade group For the Fishes. “Hawaii is not a third world country needing to exploit resources, regardless of costs, and it’s time to stop acting like one. SCR 1 and various measures proposed to ban or restrict the trade are responses to this fact, as well as a simple cost-benefit analysis showing the true value of Hawaii’s coral reef wildlife.” Umberger, who interprets the data differently and who helped craft the language behind resolutions like SCR 1, believes 2012 “is going to be a very good year for the fishes.”

Some anti-trade activists are not particularly concerned with the data at all, and they simply scoff at the word sustainability used in the context of the marine aquarium fishery. “Trafficking in marine wildlife for the pet trade cannot be justified with a buzz word,” says Robert Wintner, above, longtime anti-trade activist and owner of Snorkel Bob’s, which rents snorkeling gear to tourists. Wintner claims “sustainability is as nebulous as ‘virtue’ at a debutante ball.”

His argument against the trade, while at times referencing data, is most accurately a moral and ethical argument against keeping animals in aquaria. As such, he not only refuses to discuss sustainable aquarium fisheries, but he also rebuffs “the ‘f’ word” altogether.

“A Lot of Frustration”

While there isn’t a lot of surprise over the newly introduced measures, fisheries managers, fishers and others who support sustainable fisheries in Hawaii, express a lot of frustration. “These attacks on the trade originate from a small group of people on Maui and ignore the facts, process and common sense,” one exacerbated fisher said yesterday when asked about the new measures. “I’m not surprised, but it’s very disheartening.”

SCR 1 and SR 2 were both introduced by Senate President Shan Tsutsuiright, who is a Maui legislator, and Maui has indeed been the de facto epicenter of the anti-trade movement in Hawaii. In part, this is because Maui is the home of the aforementioned Wintner and Umberger.

Most recently, Maui has been the site of a series of increasingly larger anti-trade protests against Petco and the chain’s sale of marine aquarium fishes. While the degradation of Maui’s reefs is an important issue desperately needing to be addressed, it’s quite clear the aquarium fishery is amongst the least of the stressors causing damage to the Island’s reefs. In fact, when it comes to the marine aquarium fishery, Maui is almost irrelevant.

According to state records, only three aquarium fishers harvested a total of just over 2,000 fishes in Maui’s waters in FY 2011. More than 40 times as many reef fishes were harvested from Maui’s other, non-aquarium related fisheries. Unlike aquarium fishers, who most often target younger fishes, food fishers typically target the larger breeding portion of the population, further compounding their impact.

This selective targeting of one fishery over another worries fisheries managers, and, as one person commented, “stinks of politics and special interest.”

Even in the case of West Hawaii, where the most aquarium fishes are harvested for the trade, the almost completely unregulated recreational fishery is as large, if not larger, than the marine aquarium fishery. “It makes little biological sense for such legislation to exclusively target aquarium collecting while totally ignoring other harvesting impacts,” says Walsh.

Below: Convict Surgeonfish School grazes a Hawaiian reef. This species is largely avoided by aquarium collectors because it is a popular food fish there, known as manini. Those in the aquarium trade come from elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific.

A Collector Speaks: “Wrong Facts” Being Used

Internationally respected rare fish collector Tony Nahacky has been fishing for aquarium fishes in Hawaii for about as long as anyone. By extension, he has a better long-range view of the debate surrounding Hawaii’s marine aquarium fishery than most. Nahacky is frustrated by this new round of measures.

“I have not reviewed all the bills being introduced in the current Hawaii Legislative Session,” Nahacky tells CORAL, “but of the bills I have reviewed they sadly have their facts wrong concerning the aquarium fishery in Hawaii.”

Nahacky, right, points to numerous inaccuracies, misused facts and blatant untruths in a number of the bills he has read. He points, for example, to SCR 1, which states emphatically: “endemic species, occurring nowhere else in the world and contributing to Hawaii’s natural legacy, are threatened with extinction by collection for aquarium purposes.”

Nahacky says there is no data to support any aquarium fishes in Hawaii are threatened with extinction. “The Convention for the Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which the U.S.A. is party to, have not listed any Hawaiian marine aquarium fish as being endangered,” Nahacky says.

“Unfortunately, little to no due diligence was undertaken to provide accurate and verifiable statements concerning the aquarium fishery in Hawaii and particularly in West Hawaii, which is,” Nahacky points out, “considered a model for developing aquarium fisheries in other parts of the world.”

Four of the five aquarium-related measures introduced yesterday are a direct result of a vote occurring on the island of Kauai—an island with virtually no aquarium fishery to speak of. The vote on Kauai followed testimony that was one hundred percent in support of the ban and organized by anti-trade activists from Maui. No data or opinion from the state agency charged with both monitoring and managing the State’s fisheries was solicited prior to the vote, although councilmembers did cite data more than ten years old as influencing their votes.

The Kauai Council, which voted in favor of a statewide ban on the aquarium trade and caused these measures to be introduced as part of Hawaii’s 2012 Legislative Session, introduced no similar bill expressing concern about any other fishery despite the fact that on Kauai the non-aquarium reef fish harvest was 400 times that taken by the two aquarium fishers working in island waters.

Over the coming week, several additional aquarium-related measures will no doubt be introduced. It will be important for all interested parties to read and do their best to understand each measure. CORAL will continue to report on the new measures, and, where appropriate, give people an opportunity to become involved.

January 23, 2012 - 8:24 AM No Comments

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