State Hears Aquarium Collection Lawsuit

by Robert Wintner  (Opinions expressed are the authors)
(Note: Above photo copyrighted and courtesy of Robert Wintner)

The Honolulu District Court yesterday heard closing summaries a case against the State of Hawaii for issuing aquarium collecting permits without assessing Environmental impact—or impact to the Hawaiian culture.

The public trust law firm Earthjustice, representing a cross section of plaintiffs against the State, had no burden to establish harm but presented overwhelming evidence of harm to Hawaii reefs from massive aquarium extraction.

The State defended its Department of Land & Natural Resources with a claim that “DLNR cannot stop this from happening,” and beyond that, “aquarium collecting is sustainable, as it has been since 1953.”

DLNR’s discretionary consent of the aquarium trade in Hawaii is the challenge—that discretionary consent allows total extraction of every fish from any given reef with no regard to biology, reef function, scarcity, declining numbers, reef health, algae overload, parasitic loading and so on.

DLNR Director William Aila is an aquarium collector of long standing… The ruling will be soon. The judge said, “The court will give no deference to DLNR on its policy of the last 60 years.”

Stay tuned. If the District Court rules in favor of Hawaii reef recovery over continuing reef decline, this will be a monumental event. An aquarium collector testified before the Hawaii legislature in recent years, “We see puffers on almost every reef. Why shouldn’t we take them?”

No media attended yesterday’s hearing.