Honolulu, Hawaii — A House Committee hearing on a package of bills relating to the collection and protection of marine life drew almost 4,000 pieces of written testimony today. The House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources & Hawaiian Affair’s committee (OMH), chaired by Rep. Kaniela Ing (Kihei, Wailea, Makena), heard speakers voice opinions on bills relating to the collection of aquarium fish, fishing rights and regional fishery management. An overwhelming number of individuals submitting testimony on HB511, which prohibits the harassment of anyone marine or aquarium fishing and specifically tasks conservation officers with enforcing the harassment ban.
“Everyone in Hawaii wants to ensure that our reefs and marine life are sustainable,” Representative Ing said. “One thing was very evident and that’s the passion that each testifier felt, as well as their deep concern for the ocean environment that sustains all marine life in our waters.
“While we heard decidedly differing views and concerns on the issues, and while it may be uncomfortable, we need to strike a balance, find common ground and make the best decision we can. I believe that today’s discussion was a positive step forward to reach that goal.”
The measures heard today included HB606, which establishes a 10-year moratorium on the taking of aquarium fish; HB873, which prohibits the sale of aquatic life for aquarium purposes; and HB883, which seeks to prevent the cruel treatment of aquatic life by preventing its sale when such treatment is part of the capture or collection of fish.
Also on today’s agenda was HB483, authorizing administrative inspection within the West Hawaii regional fishery management area.
“We are taking the time to carefully review all the available information so that we can make the best decision going forward,” added OMH Vice Chair Representative Nicole Lowen (Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa, Honokohau). “The latest report from the Department of Land and Natural Resources does show an overall increase in fish populations in West Hawaii in recent years, but it also cautions that allowing the aquarium industry to expand could eventually harm the resource. Right now, we have the task of looking at ways to make sure we are protecting our important marine resources without eliminating a $2.3 million industry overnight.”
Today’s committee hearing notice and testimony from the hearing is available at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2015/hearingnotices/HEARING_OMH_02-11-15_.HTM.
The Committee on Water and Land will decide whether to move the bills forward tomorrow, Thursday, February 12, at 11:35 a.m. in room 325.