House Committee Delays Decision of Two Hawaii Aquarium Fishery Related Bills

The House Committee on the Judiciary considered two aquarium fishery related bills yesterday but deferred decision making until Tuesday. The two bills considered are House Bill 483 (HB 483), which authorizes administrative inspections within the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area (WHRFMA), and the revised House Bill 873 (HB 873 HD1), which establishes an “aquatic life conservation program” to “implement conservation measures to regulate the collection of fish and other aquatic life for aquarium purposes.” Both bills passed out of the House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources & Hawaiian Affairs on 12 February. Because both bills were heard yesterday, no additional public testimony will be heard Tuesday.

HB 873 HD1 Opposed by Fisheries Managers

While a good deal of public comment and written testimony was received both supporting and opposing HB 873 HD1, some of the most compelling and relevant testimony came from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR)–the state agency that would be charged with implementing HB 873 HD1 if it passed into law. In written testimony, Carty Chang, interim DLNR Chairperson, stated that DLNR opposes the Bill, saying, “The Bill would require significant resources to implement the provisions described, but does not provide any funding for such a program.”

While the creation of “an aquarium fish conservation program” within DLNR would require funding that does not exist, it is also, according to Chang and others, unnecessary. DLNR already requires commercial aquarium collectors to report monthly fishing effort, and extensive survey data on the status of reef fishes in the State’s largest aquarium fishery show sustainability. “These data,” says Chang, “indicate that the aquarium fishery is currently operating at a level that does not indicate significant population declines and major shifts in species diversity in areas where collecting is occurring.”

Many anti-aquarium fishery activists like Rene Umbereger, who submitted testimony on behalf of Reef Rescue Alliance, supported HB 873 HD1 with further amendments.

After testimony was given and the Committee had a chance to question DLNR on specific aspects of the Bill, the measure was deferred until Tuesday afternoon. HB 873 HD1 is now scheduled for decision making on 2 March at 1:05PM in conference room 325 of the State Capital.

HB 483 – Dead on Arrival?

Decision making on HB 483, authorizing administrative inspections within the WHRFMA was also deferred until Tuesday, but while some observers believe HB 873 HD1 has at least a reasonable chance of passing with amendments, few people think HB 483 will pass out of committee. In large part, this assessment is based on testimony provided by the Attorney General, who opposes the Bill, saying:

The Department of the Attorney General opposes this bill in its current form as the administrative inspection scheme it proposes does not narrowly tailor the interactions between the inspector and the inspectee to limit the intrusion into a person’s privacy. The bill appears to violate article I, sections 6 and 7, of the Hawaii State Constitution that protect the right of people to privacy and the right to be free of unreasonable searches, seizures, and invasions of privacy.

For its part, DLNR offered testimony saying it supports the intent of the Bill, but that because it raises Fourth Amendment issues, DLNR “would seek the advice of the Department of the Attorney General regarding its legal implications.”


About Ret Talbot

Ret Talbot is a freelance writer who covers fisheries at the intersection of science and sustainability. His work has appeared in publications such as National Geographic, Mongabay, Discover Magazine, Ocean Geographic and Coral Magazine. He lives on the coast of Maine with his wife, scientific illustrator Karen Talbot.
This entry was posted in Hawaii, Legislation, Ornamental Fisheries and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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