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June 25, 2021

Hawai‘i Land Board Deadlocked on Aquarium Pet Trade

New impact statement to be accepted on legal technicality


Mahesh Cleveland,, (808) 599-2436, ext. 6621

Inga Gibson,, (808) 922-9910

Honolulu, HI

The State of Hawai‘i Board of Land and Natural Resources reached a tie (3-3) vote today regarding an environmental impact statement (EIS) aimed at reopening the aquarium pet trade in West Hawai‘i Island. Without a majority vote before July 8, the impact statement will automatically be deemed “accepted.”

After the Board rejected the industry’s first impact statement last May, and despite an ongoing appeal process that remains unresolved, the industry submitted a revised statement that repeated many of the same flaws the Board rejected the first time.

“This new EIS was based on the same skewed data and methods as the last one. We’re disappointed that a majority did not hold the line to ensure the aquarium trade’s harmful effects are fully studied and addressed,” said Earthjustice Attorney Mahesh Cleveland.

The Board may not resume issuing permits or licenses to the aquarium collectors covered under the impact statement without lifting two court-ordered injunctions. These injunctions resulted from two prior lawsuits that Earthjustice brought on behalf of a coalition of environmental advocacy groups, Hawaiian fishers, and cultural practitioners to ensure that the trade fully complies with Hawai‘i’s environmental review laws before collection continues.

Yellow tangs, called Lau’ipala in Hawaiian, are the most exploited Hawaiian aquarium fish. The industry historically extracts and exports around 300,000 individuals per year.

Kaikea Nakachi

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