On August 24, the Maui County Council voted unanimously in favor of a law curbing reckless reef fish extraction for the aquarium trade, representing the first such regulation in Hawaii.
The law establishes strict standards and a permit system, and holds aquarium trade collectors accountable for fish mortality and humane treatment. Fees and fines are imposed to offset the expense of tracking reef extraction and its effect on reef health. The high demand for exotic aquarium species and the lack of oversight at the state level have facilitated excessive extractions from Hawaiian reefs, leaving many reefs barren that once housed rare endemic wildlife.
Yellow tangs, eels, and hermit crabs are some of the vital marine life that has been stripped from the reefs for the aquarium trade, suffering high mortality rates in the process. Maui County’s landmark legislation hopefully will spur other counties and the state government to take similar action to protect Hawaii’s reefs.