Last month, Hawaii Governor David Ige said he plans to veto Senate Bill 1240. Rightly, the governor expressed concern that the aquarium fishing ban in SB 1240 is not backed by sound science. Additionally, fishers, divers, and others have urged the governor to veto the bill because it will hurt jobs and risk the lives of those who collect aquarium fish.
Activists aren’t taking the governor’s support for his constituents, the safety of coral reefs, and effective regulation lying down. They are engaging in an aggressive and dishonest effort to pressure him to sign the bill because of its alleged benefits to the environment and Hawaii’s fish. Even before Governor Ige announced his intention, The Humane Society issued a misleading press release about a poll they say showed overwhelming support for SB 1240. Flaws and a lack of transparency about the poll led one professor of polling to state: “This poll should be given a similar level of weight comparable to political campaigns releasing internal poll data, which would not release any damaging information, only information that supports their narrative.”
Again, the science and data are clear. As stated by Suzanne Case, executive director of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) in a recent op-ed, the state has conducted 6,700 surveys since 1999 that clearly show aquarium fish populations in West Hawaii “are generally stable or increasing.” Additionally, DLNR surveyed biologists who determined that aquarium fishing is the least harmful factor affecting reefs—well behind issues like pollution and nutrient runoff.
Case also pointed to how SB 1240 has provisions that are inefficient, expensive and/or not allowed under existing state statutes.
None of this has stopped activists from bombarding Governor Ige with astro-turf letters to his office, Facebook comments and phone calls. Fishers need to step up and let Governor Ige know that they have his back if he continues to have theirs.
Randy Fernley is the president of Coral Fish Hawaii, Inc., the largest tropical fish store in Hawaii. He is also a diver and collector of tropical fish. He has been involved in the aquarium fishing industry for more than 40 years.