Hawaii & Alaska
Map showing the extent of the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area, extending from North Kohala to Ka‘u. (From final EIS/Special to West Hawaii Today)

HI - Aquarium trade releases final EIS for reopening West Hawaii fishery

West Hawaii’s coastal waters — closed to aquarium fishing for more than two years — should reopen to just 10 commercial aquarium fishermen, a final environmental impact statement released Thursday states.

Produced by the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council with help from Stantec Consulting Services, the final EIS amended its initial proposal, reducing the suggested number of Commercial Aquarium Permits issued for the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area (WHRFMA) from 14 to 10.

The EIS is aimed at bringing the aquarium trade into compliance with the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act after the state Supreme Court ruled collection without environmental review violates the act.

The restrictions outlined in the final environmental impact statement released Thursday would limit the annual collection to less than 2% of the islandwide population: well under the 5% to 25% rate the EIS research suggests is sustainable. The proposal does not prohibit the use of fine mesh nets and limits recreational aquarium collectors without a valid commercial marine license to five fish per person per day; recreational collectors would not be able to sell any collected fish.

According to the final EIS, “No significant adverse effects would occur as a result of the Preferred Alternative,” though this conclusion was disputed as, “erroneous and unsupportable” by officials from For the Fishes, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Humane Society of the United States — among others — in a response.

The final EIS selected the “Limited Permit Issuance Alternative” as the preferred alternative from among four proposals.

“Of the four action alternatives which meet the Applicant’s purpose and need, the Limited Permit Issuance Alternative is the Preferred Alternative, as it results in the lowest collection of the 40 White List Species…” stated the EIS. “In addition, the Preferred Alternative limits the geographic scope of Aquarium Permits to the WHRFMA, and it is the only Alternative under consideration which limits the number of permits that would be issued.”

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