Hawai’i’s Sustainability Success
How do they do it? Here are some specifics.
- Fish are caught using a lightweight barrier net managed by professional divers to avoid any damage to the reef.
- Any fish that are inadvertently caught, or are inappropriate size or age, are released.
- Fish collectors are limited to a specific number of fish for many breeds by Hawai’i law.
- Fish populations have been carefully monitored since the Hawai’i legislature passed Act 306 in 1998 establishing the West Hawai’i Regional Fishery. In the decades that followed, fish populations have soared in both open and protected areas.
- A 2020 report by Hawai’i’s Department of Land and Natural Resources found that populations of Yellow Tang increased more in open areas (101%) where aquarium collection is allowed than in Marine protected areas (74%), though both showed population increases. The population of Kole was similarly increasing in open areas (97%), even outpacing the population growth in Fish Replenishment Areas (85%).
- That same report “found no significant differences in the abundance of adult Yellow Tang” between areas opened and closed to aquarium collection, highlighting the sustainability of the fisheries.
- The report also concluded that the species richness of the reef has not changed in the past 15 years, showing stability for all types of fish.
- There have been thousands of surveys conducted by volunteers regularly confirming the sustainability of fish populations. Aquarium fish collection has been insignificant when compared to the population as a whole since the 1970s.
- Fish collected for aquariums go on to inspire individuals around the world to care about reef sustainability even if they cannot visit one directly.
- Fish collection is regulated even more than fishing for food. There are many areas where capturing fish alive for aquarium use is illegal, but catching the fish, killing them, and selling them in food markets is legal.