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Bill to Ban Aquarium Fishing Heard by Senate Committee

Prof. Gail Grabowski

A proposed bill to ban all aquarium fishing statewide had a hearing Friday.



Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Mike Nakachi supports the bill

Senate Bill 931 would prohibit the collection of aquarium or ornamental reef fish because their capture is incompatible with Kanaka Maoli values.  Mike Nakachi of Moana Ohana supports the measure.


“Different folks that have had Kanaka values, have had culture integrated into their society, that have had a way of life, ‘Only take what you need.  Malama aina, malama momona.’  Is this particular commercial extraction align with those values and it doesn’t.  It’s that simple.”


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Ron Tubbs opposes the bill

But, Ron Tubbs, an aquarium fisherman for 40 years, says shutting down the industry will put many people out of work.


“It’s a 70 billion dollar industry.  Most of the species that fishermen take, there’s no issue with fish populations. The Hawai’i State Constitution states that the oceans are the common heritage of all user groups.  Not just one. Not the tourists. Not the kau kau fishermen guys.  Not the aquarium fishermen guys.  Everybody.”


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
The Senate Committee on Water and Land public hearing was packed in Room 229

A Hawai’i Supreme Court ruling in 2017 prohibited the use of fine mesh nets for aquarium fishing, requiring 2-inch nets instead.  An Environmental Impact Statement is being prepared by the aquarium industry for West Hawai’i Island.   Makani Christiansen, president of the Hunting, Farming and Fishing Association says aquarium fishing did not exist in ancient Hawai’i, but the culture evolved.


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Makani Christensen opposed the bill

“We now depend not only on land but on money for sustainability.  Hawaiians have found new ways to feed their families and fuel Hawai’i’s economy.  The aquarium fish trade allows Hawaiian people to practice our culture by gathering from our resources, as did our ancestors.”


But, cultural practitioner Nakachi says the public is entitled to having Hawai’i reefs protected.


“We need to think about this because – again – this is more pie in the face for a lot of people when you’re talking about the majority of the people within the State of Hawai’i, allowing commercial interest to supersede public trust asset.”


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Senator Kai Kahele will render a decision on Bill 931 on Wednesday

Meanwhile, Senate Water and Land Committee chair, Kai’ali’i Kahele, who conducted the public hearing, says he’s hesitant about approving an outright ban.


“We should have this dynamic regulatory system.  In the past, if the resource was depleted we put a kapu on the resource.  Once the resource restored itself, then, we managed it.  So, I am not going to render a decision on this bill today.  I need time to think about it.  I think the members need time to think about it.”


Decision-making for Senate Bill 931 is scheduled for Wednesday 2pm in conference room 229.   Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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