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Protecting Hawai'i’s Reef from the Aquarium Trade

An aquarium collector takes fish from a reef in Hawai`i.

An aquarium collector takes fish from a reef in Hawai`i.

Photo provided by Brooke Everett

What’s at Stake

Important wildlife in Hawai’i’s reef ecosystems are being captured for private aquariums, exposing the reefs to algal growth and robbing them of resiliency. Earthjustice is fighting to stop this destructive practice so that Hawaii’s reefs have a fighting chance to survive.

Overview

Aquarium collectors capture hundreds of thousands of fish and invertebrates from Hawaiʻi’s reefs every year. Alarmingly, the Hawaiʻi’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has stated that this should be considered a minimum estimate because it does not verify the accuracy of submitted catch reports.

The collected animals are primarily herbivorous, reef-dwellers that serve unique functions in the coral reef ecosystem, such as helping to control algae growth.

Studies have shown that reducing diversity of reef fish and shellfish affects a reef’s ability to respond to stresses or disturbances. This is vitally important as reefs come under serious pressure from global threats, including climate change and ocean acidification.

In a series of lawsuits, Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of local conservation groups to stop the reckless collection of marine animals that threaten to empty Hawaiʻi reefs.

Case Updates

November 30, 2020 | Legal Document

Aquarium Collection Minute Order

Department of Land and Natural Resources violated the law by allowing the aquarium trade to continue extracting hundreds of thousands of marine animals from Hawaiʻi’s reefs without first reviewing the environmental and cultural impacts.