Hawaiian Bill to Establish Endangered Marine Species Task Force Advances

Three aquarium fishery-related bills are currently in play at the Hawaii State House.

HB 2025 Advances in the Hawaii State House Despite Opposition

Tomorrow the House Committee on Finance (FIN) will hear HB 2025 HD1, a measure that would establish a marine species task force to identify ten vital marine species vulnerable to extinction if take levels of those species increase. For a more comprehensive discussion of this Bill, see “Hearing of Hawaii Aquarium Fishery-Related Bill Scheduled.” The Bill was previously passed with Amendments out of the House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs (OMH) on 19 February despite opposition from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). DLNR is the state agency that will administer the task force if the Bill becomes law.

DLNR opposed the Bill in written testimony submitted to OMH during the Bill’s first hearing on 10 February. “The Department already has the ability to informally convene advisory groups to discuss a number of subjects and to provide suggested guidance,” wrote DLNR Chairperson Suzanne Case. In addition, Case stated that a task force created by statute “would involve considerable administrative burden” and that its creation would be redundant. “The work of the proposed task force is already being done and is funded at the federal level, with procedures already in place,” she stated.

The Department notes that the National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Protected Resources (OPR), is regularly petitioned to review the status of many species in the area of the Hawaiian Islands. These reviews are to determine if any species already on the list of threatened or endangered species should change their status or if any new species needs to be added. Their review process is quite extensive, with staff and funding specifically provided to conduct this review for species status.

We work with OPR, the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC), and others, whenever practical, to utilize not only their expertise, but their considerable resources, to determine species status. For marine mammals, OPR produces stock assessment reports (SARs), sometimes annually, depending on whether new information becomes available. OPR also produces recovery plans for many species to guide activities to eventually delist species that have recovered. Since these mechanisms already exist and we are using them, the task force is unnecessary.

Strong Opposition to the Bill Beyond DLNR

In addition to DLNR’s opposition to the Bill, nine other parties opposed the Bill in written testimony. Only two supported it. Amongst those that opposed the Bill were several involved in the Hawaii aquarium fishery, as well as the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC). Presumably PIJAC worries that a marine aquarium species might be added to the list by the task force if the Bill becomes law. “Hawaiians have been fishing for the aquarium trade in a responsible and sustainable manner that makes this law completely unnecessary,” wrote PIJAC Vice President of Government Affairs Robert A. Likins III, taking a very narrow approach to the Bill.

Other aquarium trade advocates who presented testimony focused on the bigger picture. “There are existing Federal and State agencies that can and have done exactly what this bill is asking for,” stated aquarium fisher Dennis Yamaguchi. Aquarium fisher Matthew Ross stated:

While this bill is well intentioned, it will do more harm than good. As it stands, practically no marine species are considered to be at risk of extinction due to overharvesting, and those that are have already been listed under the Endangered Species Act. This bill is redundant and would ultimately serve to divert scarce resources that are needed for science, resource management, and enforcement.

What’s Next?

According to the hearing notice, HB 2025 Bill is scheduled to be heard by FIN tomorrow (Thursday, 25 February) at 3:00 pm in House conference room 308. Interested parties may read the most current draft of the Bill (HB 2025 HD1) in its entirety here. Written testimony regarding the Bill must be submitted at least 24 hours prior to the hearing. It may be submitted on paper (four copies) to Room 425 in the State Capitol, via FAX (less than 5 pages in length) to 808-586-8404 (Oahu) or online.

For a run-down of all ten aquarium fishery/trade-related bills before the Hawaii Legislature this year, click here.

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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 Endangered Species Act (ESA), Hawaii, Indo-Pacific, Legislation, Ornamental Fisheries and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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