HONOLULU, Hawaii – On Wednesday, William Aila – the former chair of the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources – testified on bills proposing to further regulate (or in some cases, ban) the aquarium fishing industry in Hawaii.
Taking a seat before the State House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources, & Hawaiian Affairs, Aila opposed House Bill 873, which would prohibit the sale of aquatic life for aquarium purposes.
Under the new administration of Governor David Ige, Aila stepped down as chair of DLNR. He now serves as a deputy chair in the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. On Wednesday he testified as a private individual.
Aila is a former aquarium fish collector. Therefore, his actions as DLNR chair in regards to reef fish were often scrutinized by certain reef fish conservationists. Some accused Aila of working to “entrench the marine aquarium trade” on Hawaii reefs.
Aila is gone from DLNR but the department still shows support for the aquarium collectors.
The Department has required commercial aquarium collectors to report monthly fishing effort information under Section 189-3, Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) for over forty years. The Department has also collected extensive underwater visual survey data on the status of reef fishes along the Kona coast of Western Hawaii island for over fifteen years. A report of these surveys has been submitted to the 2015 Legislature in compliance with Section 188F-5, HRS. These data 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. DLNR testimony in opposition to HB 873 on Feb. 11, 2015
The House committee will hold a decision making session on Thursday to decide on HB 873 and other related bills.