Comment on Aquarium Fish Trade EIS

As expected, the court mandated (draft) Environmental Impact Statement written up by the same company (Stantec Consulting) that gave us the Keystone pipeline, is delivering a product for a select group of 14 commercial Aquarium fish collectors on Hawaii Island hoping to retain their sweetheart deal of an unregulated extractive industry that has bedeviled the public and most native practitioners for decades. Currently, a court ordered moratorium for the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area (WHRFMA) has paused the operations.

For years the ‘take’ on Hawaii Island’s ‘Gold Coast’ from just a select few operators amounted to at least 1.8 times more fish than all the fish taken by food and recreational fishers combined. And yet this report takes pains to project historic numbers in highly impacted coastal zones against a base of the entire island, thus computing a negligible amount in the 1% range, and thereby ‘justifying’ a finding of “no significant impact”. That’s like computing the impact of a dirty smokestack in your neighborhood as against the general air quality of the entire state!

Even worse, while the prior Environmental Assessment was rejected by DLNR for not properly conducting a cultural impact component, this DEIS took copious testimony from dozens of Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners but then summarily dismissed the import of their largely unsupportive testimonies by the logic that since the populations of reef animals are not substantially reduced, then the operations cannot possibly have a significant cultural impact either.

It should be noted also that in a final ironic twist, this deal if accepted by DLNR would fly in the face of recent pronouncements by DLNR urging recreational and subsistence food fishers to practice self restraint and voluntarily avoid taking many of these same herbivorous fish (coral symbionts) off the reefs because of the impending threats and damage due to global warming and coral bleaching! The Hawaii Island Group Sierra Club calls for a rejection of this reports’s “preferred alternative” to put these operators back in business. In the meantime, we continue to call for an end to this wasteful and destructive industry.

Readers can make comments to the Department of Land and Natural Resources until January 7, 2020.

Environmental Notice with information on where to submit your comments

Electronic version of the “Issuance of Commercial Aquarium Fishing Permits for the Island of Hawai‘i-Draft EIS”