Friday, January 29, 2010

Reef Fish Kill-Off

This is a photo of the front page of this morning's West Hawai'i Today newspaper. The lead story involves the discovery of two bags of dead tropical reef fish that were discovered in a dumpster at Honokohau Harbor. The fish were apparently gathered for the aquarium trade. It's presumed the collector experienced an equipment failure with his aquariums resulting in the fish die-off. Of the 610 dead fish, 551 were Yellow Tang - a staple of the home aquarium business. From the photos, the other fish included Fourspot, Pebbled, and Longnose Butterflyfish, Achilles Tangs, and possibly Lavender Tangs.

The article goes on to describe the negative reactions in the community to this discovery. I've always tried to stay out of the fray concerning the various ways people use the ocean. Somethings that may seem terrible to one group of people may not really be all that bad. For example, at Honaunau, where I usually dive, some visitors are upset to see spearfishing going on. But Hawaiians have been spearfishing here for centuries, taking only what was to be eaten and not disrupting the ecological balance. Spearfishing is a traditional practice that, by its very nature, is an inefficient and very difficult way to gather fish resulting in very little impact to the reef. But the sheer magnitude of the fish kill described in this article indicates that the aquarium fish collectors are over-harvesting the resource. There was apparently no law broken by whoever dumped these fish...but maybe there should be. If fish continue to be gathered from Hawai'ian reefs in these kinds of numbers  it will only take a few years to see visible harm to the marine eco-system.

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