(BIVN) – A Hawaiʻi State Senate bill dealing with a moratorium on commercial aquarium fishing has been re-referred after the Senate Committee on Water and Land amended the proposed law.
Senator Kai Kahele, who chairs the Water and Land Committee, introduced the bill, along with other Hawaiʻi Island state senators Lorrain Inouye, Russell Ruderman, and Dru Kanuha. Sen. Karl Rhoads also signed on.
According to the current description of SB931:
Prohibits any person from possessing a fine-mesh net or fine-mesh trap on their person or within a vessel within state marine waters or on or about the shore where fish can be taken and imposes a $5,000 fine for violations. Places a two-year moratorium on the commercial capture of aquatic life for aquarium purposes or under a commercial marine license through use of fine-mesh nets or fine-mesh traps. Requires the research corporation of the university of Hawaii (RCUH) to evaluate the impacts of the department of land and natural resources’ issuance of commercial aquarium permits on the island of Oahu and West Hawaii. Requires a cultural impact assessment in coordination with the office of Hawaiian affairs and Native Hawaiian cultural organizations. Requires the RCUH to submit a progress report to the Legislature no later than twenty days prior to the regular session of 2020. Requires the governor to accept the EIS no later than twenty days prior to the regular session of 2021. Requires the department of land and natural resources to establish a marine aquarium fishing advisory group. Makes an appropriation. Repeals 6/30/2021. (SD1)
After a February 8 hearing at the Capitol, the bill was amended during a February 13 decision making session.
According to the committee report, the bill was introduced with the intent to “prohibit all commercial capture of aquatic life for aquarium purposes, regardless of the method of collection,” and allow the following practices to continue:
- (1) Issuance of special activity permits pursuant to section 187A-6, Hawaii Revised Statutes;
- (2) Issuance of recreational permits for non-commercial capture of aquatic life for aquarium purposes, in accordance with existing laws and rulings regarding compliance with environmental assessments;
- (3) Captive-breeding and aquaculture efforts, as regulated by section 187A-3.5, Hawaii Revised Statutes; and
- (4) The exercise of traditional and customary practices, the lawful taking of fish for consumption or bait, and the lawful management or taking of aquatic life from fishponds.
The Water and Land committee found “that it is important for the State to have an unbiased environmental impact statement and comprehensive cultural assessment on the impacts of aquarium fishing on the natural resources and culture of Hawaii before lawmakers can make any long-term decisions regarding the aquarium fishing industry,” and that “to allow the commercial trade to continue in a manner that adversely impacts marine resources would be contrary to effective marine resource management and traditional Hawaiian practices,” the report stated.
According to the committee report, the bill was amended by:
- (1) Limiting the prohibition on harvesting aquatic life for commercial aquarium purposes to only harvesting that is done by using a fine-mesh net or fine-mesh trap in any state marine waters, with certain exceptions, and extending this prohibition to persons operating under a commercial marine license;
- (2) Inserting language to prohibit any person from possessing a fine-mesh net or fine-mesh trap on their person or within a vessel within state marine waters or on or about the shore where fish can be taken, and impose a $5,000 fine for a violation;
- (3) Defining “fine-mesh” as the rhombic (diamond-shaped) opening enclosed by four bars of twines or equal length at the four corners where the opening is less than three centimeters measured between corners when the mesh is stretched;
- (4) Inserting language to require the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii (RCUH) to prepare an environmental impact statement to evaluate the impacts of the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ issuance of commercial aquarium permits on Oahu and West Hawaii;
- (5) Inserting language to require the RCUH to complete a comprehensive cultural impact assessment in coordination with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Native Hawaiian organizations, including but not limited to the Aha Moku Advisory Committee and Hunting, Farming, and Fishing Association;
- (6) Requiring the RCUH to submit a progress report to the Legislature no later than twenty days prior to the Regular Session of 2020;
- (7) Requiring the Governor to be the accepting authority and to accept the environmental impact statement no later than twenty days prior to the Regular Session of 2021; and
- (8) Inserting language to require the Department of Land and Natural Resources to establish a marine aquarium fishing advisory group to guide the RCUH and Office of Hawaiian Affairs toward completion of the environmental impact statement and cultural impact assessment;
- (9) Amending section 1 to reflect its amended purpose;
- (10) Inserting an appropriation of $500,000;
- (11) Changing the effective date to July 1, 2019;
- (12) Inserting a repeal date of June 30, 2021; and
- (13) Making technical, nonsubstantive amendments for the purposes of clarity and consistency.
The bill passed through the Water and Land committee, passed second reading in the senate, and was re-referred to the same committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the Senate Ways and means Committee.