Despite objections by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) / Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) and prominent experts, Hawaii’s new Senate session has introduced an astounding sixteen measures that threatens the aquarium trade with heavy regulations and outright bans. Some of these measures were expected following the passing of county-level, non-binding resolutions in 2011. However, unlike resolutions, a Hawaii Senate Bill would be enforceable by law if passed.
DLNR’s scientific data shows a trend toward sustainability in Hawaiian fish, but this has not stopped anti-aquarium activists from spreading emotionally and fear-charged propaganda to sway public sentiment. The fight for the future of the aquarium trade in Hawaii is in full swing.
In other Hawaii environmental news reported by Advanced Aquarist today:
Kāneʿohe Bay, Hawai’i is a popular recreational area (and location of an US Marine Corp base) that is currently under attack by an unknown pathogen which has killed scores of Montipora capitata. Scientists in 2011 discovered that White Pox in the Caribbean – a disease that ravaged Acropora palmata across the Atlantic tropics for over the past decade – is actually caused by a bacterium found in human excrement released into the wild via under-treated sewage.
This invites the logical question: Is Montipora White Syndrome also an anthropogenic disease? Are snorkelers, divers, boaters, and resorts responsible for MWS?
With Hawai’i’s reefs facing larger threats, why have activists chosen to wage war on the aquarium trade and not resorts, dive/snorkel operators, boaters, recreational and commercial fisherman, the US military, et al.? I suspect the reasons are simple:
- It’s hard to fight government. It’s hard to fight big business. But it’s easy to pick a fight with a small industry such as aquarium fisheries.
- It’s easy to scapegoat the aquarium trade because removal of fish is highly visible and easily recognized, whereas it is much more difficult to recognize underlying systematic problems caused by other human activity. When you see someone physically catching a fish, the “take-one-substract-one” causation is simple to understand, evoking a knee-jerk “There’s your shooter!” response … even if science tells us the real problem lies elsewhere.
- Everyone enjoys resorts and recreational activities, but fishkeeping appeals to a much smaller population. It’s easy to demagogue something 99% of the public has no personal interest in.
Even with science on our side, the problem facing the aquarium trade is that it is easier for anti-aquarium activists to appeal to the public’s emotions and fears (often with lies) than for aquarists and scientists to educate them about real data.
But the truth must prevail.
I encourage you to read Ret Talbot’s excellent CORAL report. We hope to see another Advanced Aquarist blog by Ret on this subject shortly.