Hawaiʻi Marine Bills Draw Nearly 4,000 Pieces of Testimony

February 12, 2015, 8:53 AM HST · Updated February 12, 9:04 AM
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File photo by Wendy Osher.

File photo by Wendy Osher.

By Maui Now Staff

A state House Committee hearing on a package of bills relating to the collection and protection of marine life drew nearly 4,000 pieces of written testimony on Wednesday.

The House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources & Hawaiian Affair’s committee, chaired by Rep. Kaniela Ing of South Maui, heard speakers voice opinions on bills relating to the collection of aquarium fish, fishing rights and regional fishery management.

One of the bills, HB511 seeks to prohibit the harassment of anyone who is marine or aquarium fishing, and specifically tasks conservation officers with enforcing the harassment ban.

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“Everyone in Hawaiʻi wants to ensure that our reefs and marine life are sustainable,” said Rep. Ing in a press release statement. “One thing was very evident and that’s the passion that each testifier felt, as well as their deep concern for the ocean environment that sustains all marine life in our waters.”

He continued saying, “While we heard decidedly differing views and concerns on the issues, and while it may be uncomfortable, we need to strike a balance, find common ground and make the best decision we can. I believe that today’s discussion was a positive step forward to reach that goal.”

Other measures in the package include: HB606, seeks to establish a 10-year moratorium on the take of aquarium fish; HB873, which seeks a ban on the sale of aquatic life for aquarium purposes; and HB883, which seeks to prevent the cruel treatment of aquatic life by preventing its sale when such treatment is part of the capture or collection of fish.  Another bill on the agenda, HB483, would authorize administrative inspection within the West Hawaiʻi regional fishery management area.

“We are taking the time to carefully review all the available information so that we can make the best decision going forward,” committee vice chair, Representative Nicole Lowen in a statement. “The latest report from the Department of Land and Natural Resources does show an overall increase in fish populations in West Hawaiʻi in recent years, but it also cautions that allowing the aquarium industry to expand could eventually harm the resource. Right now, we have the task of looking at ways to make sure we are protecting our important marine resources without eliminating a $2.3 million industry overnight.”

The bills now advance to the Committee on Water and Land, where members will decide whether to move the bills forward during a meeting scheduled to take place at 11:35 a.m. today, Thursday, Feb. 12, at the State Capitol.

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