All Aquarium Collection Banned in Hawai‘i Unless EIS is Completed and Approved

Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Crabtree ruled on Tuesday that all commercial aquarium fishing is completely banned in the State of Hawaiʻi, unless and until the aquarium fishing industry has completed the Chapter 343 environmental review process.  

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “Commercial aquarium collection has been controversial for many years in Hawaiʻi.  Various court orders over the years have narrowed the allowed scope of the industry. The DLNR has faithfully implemented those orders and will now faithfully implement this ruling completely banning the industry without an approved EIS.” 

The ruling was made in response to a request by aquarium fishing opponents.    

“The court has confirmed—yet again—what community members and environmental advocates have been saying all along,” said Earthjustice attorney Kylie Wager Cruz in a press release.  “Exploitation of public marine resources for private profit cannot happen without first conducting environmental review.”

Anyone who takes marine life for commercial purposes must have a commercial marine license (CML) issued by the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Aquatic Resources.  This requirement applies to all kinds of take of aquatic resources, including commercial aquarium collection.  

More than 3,000 CMLs are outstanding.  41 CML holders reported aquarium catch in 2020.

The Court’s ruling explains that none of the current CMLs may be used for commercial aquarium collection. The ruling does not affect other types of commercial fishing or taking of marine life.   

DAR is in the process of notifying CML holders about the Court’s ruling. 

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