HONOLULU, Hawaii – Robert Wintner – author, founder of Snorkel Bob’s shops in Hawaii, and avid reef fish supporter – testified Wednesday on Oahu in favor various bills proposing to restrict or ban the sale or collection of Hawaii’s reef fish.
In the segment above – taken from the State Legislature’s live video feed – Wintner supports HB 873, which prohibits the sale of aquatic life for aquarium purposes. It was one of several bills heard that day that would affect the aquarium industry in Hawaii. It was a long day for the State House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources, & Hawaiian Affairs.
He also submitted written testimony. Here is what he wrote:
I support HB873 for a total ban on commercial sale of Hawaii reef wildlife for aquarium use. The aquarium trade had got away with murder for years. In 2008 Richard Xie of Hawaiian Sea Life told a group of key Hawaii leaders in Senator Roz Baker’s conference room that he alone ships out a million yellow tangs per year. He also reported 15 high-volume wholesalers the state knows about and another 10 the state doesn’t know about—tax free. Then comes poaching. Former DAR Administrator Dan Polhemus told the same group: “We estimate the total catch at 2 to 5 times the reported catch.” Richard Xie estimated gross revenue at that time of $20 million.
I represent Snorkel Bob’s, where are most frequently asked question is: Where are the fish? NOTE: Kona DAR ballyhoos “more fish than ever before!” That’s in the 1/3 of the Kona Coast protected from aquarium plunder. The other 2/3 are decimated, down by 50-80% on any given year, including last year. Teardrop butterflies, blueline butterflies, saddle wrasses, cowfish and many other species are GONE!
A customer in our Kona store—a documentary film producer—was so put out last year, she’s producing “The Dark Hobby,” about what happened to Hawaii reefs. It will get TV and theatrical distribution.
Aquarium hunters also deny trashing habitat. The Kona Coast, where the vast majority of aquarium hunting occurs, because they already trashed Oahu species and habitat, is 140 miles of continuous coral cover. You cannot drop anchor over fishy habitat without hitting coral. They do it daily—chains, nets, buckets—then they walk on the coral.
I dove on a reef last May at Keawaike on the Kona Coast, when an aquarium hunter attacked a fellow diver for filming him with a Go-Pro camera. He’ll stand trial next week for terroristic threatening.
Aquarium extraction is against everything Hawaiian, and I urge you to pass HB873. Thank you.
Robert Wintner, Snorkel Bob’s