Board rejects Hawaii commercial aquarium fishing statement

HONOLULU (AP) — A state board has rejected an environmental impact statement submitted by a group seeking permits for commercial aquarium fishing around Hawaii island.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources voted Friday to reject the statement of more than 2,000 pages submitted by 10 West Hawaii aquarium fishers and the National Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

The aquarium fishers can proceed with their attempts to obtain permits by revising the impact statement or appealing the board's decision.

The Hawaii Supreme Court halted aquarium fishing in September 2017 by ruling fish collection without environmental review violates the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act.

No permits have been issued since then for the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area, the focus of the environmental impact statement.

Before permits can be declared valid, the industry must prove the commercial operations can capture fish from the waters around Hawaii for aquarium sales without harming the environment, fish stock levels, reefs, or related cultural practices.

A lack of data regarding the number of fish that would be taken was of particular concern to the board in its rejection of the statement, board chairperson Suzanne Case said.

“The fact that there are really no limits on the number of fish that can be taken I think is very, very challenging. I don’t know how you analyze impacts when you don’t know how many fish will be taken out,” Case said.

The board rejected a similar environmental impact statement by the National Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council in July 2018.