Hawaii Aquarium Fishing Ban could be Lifted

Caption: A few years ago, Hawaii banned all collection of ornamental marine fish in its waters, a devastating blow to the aquarium industry. However, these aquarists are working hard to overturn this ruling. (A yellow tang, easily the most popular Hawaiian fish that was banned. (Photo from Google Creative Commons).

In December 2020, the aquarium industry was booming. Fish were (relatively) affordable, the hobby was massive and continuing to grow, as there has never been a better time to start a reef aquarium.

In January 2021, the high aquarists were riding came to a screeching halt. A judge ruled that collection of ornamental reef fish for aquariums had to stop.

It was devastating for the hobby. Iconic fish such as yellow tangs, longnose butterflyfish, flame angelfish, and potter’s wrasse all became increasingly difficult to find at the fish stores. They skyrocketed in value. 

This ban shut down hundreds of collection licenses, which put many families out of work and took food off of their tables. 

In addition, people are still allowed to recreationally spearfish these animals without a license, but cannot put them in an aquarium WITH one. 

Late in January of 2023, a court overturned the ban after aquarium hobbyists with decades of research and peer reviews defended their livelihoods. 

Of course, they didn’t get everything Scott-free. They pushed for tighter self regulation of their trade. Hawaii is already one of the most regulated fisheries in the world. Unfortunately, there will only be seven permits issued, and just eight species will be permitted to be caught. There will also be individual quotas and restrictions.

This is clearly unfair. Most of the people who want to ban fish collecting want to keep their fish in Hawaii but also be allowed to spearfish them. Is it crueler to own a small fish in a tank to love and take care of? Or to spearfish hundreds of fish for sport and food?

In any case, it still isn’t legal to fish in Hawaii, as no permits have been issued. The victory for saltwater aquarium lovers may also be very short lived as other groups are still trying to get the trade banned. Aquarists should be vigilant.


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