Update of court rulings regarding aquarium fishing, including FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

A set of frequently-asked questions and their answers is now available for download as a pdf.


Notice to holders of aquarium fish permits, October 31, 2017

A letter has been sent out to all commercial aquarium permit holders and aquarium dealers, notifying them of Judge Crabtree’s order. The letter can be downloaded here. Questions may be directed by email to aquarium@hawaii.gov.


DLNR Statement, October 27, 2017:

Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Crabtree ruled today that, based upon a Hawaiʻi Supreme Court opinion issued on September 6, 2017, existing permits for use of fine mesh nets to catch aquatic life for aquarium purposes are illegal and invalid. Judge Crabtree also ordered the DLNR not to issue any new permits pending environmental review.

The department continues to believe that existing aquarium fishing practices are sustainable and environmentally sound. And the department appreciates that dozens of local businesses and families depend on the industry for their livelihoods.

But the department respects Judge Crabtree’s ruling and will fully comply so long as it remains in effect.


DLNR Statement, October 23, 2017:

In response to today’s filing of a petition for a writ of mandamus with the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court by the plaintiffs in Umberger v. DLNR, the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources provides the following statement:

The Department of Land and Natural Resources has consistently stated its belief that existing aquarium fishing practices are sustainable and environmentally sound.  And DLNR appreciates that dozens of local businesses and families depend on the industry for their livelihoods.

Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Crabtree ruled last week that the Supreme Court’s ruling does not require immediate closure of the industry and destruction of those jobs without consideration of the scientific facts regarding harm to the environment. 

The appeal sought by petitioners today does not allow DLNR to respond unless the Supreme Court directs it to do so.  DLNR will provide more information to either the Supreme Court or the Circuit Court as requested and will promptly comply with any orders from either court.


DLNR Statement, September 7, 2017

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has long issued annual commercial and recreational aquarium fish permits, pursuant to HRS §188-31 and administrative rules, authorizing the use of fine meshed traps or nets to take aquatic life for aquarium purposes.  On Wednesday (September 6), the Hawai‘i Supreme Court ruled that aquarium collection using fine meshed traps or nets is subject to the environmental review procedures provided in the Hawai‘i Environmental Policy Act (HEPA).  The issue has been remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings.

In light of the ruling, until further guidance is received, DLNR has discontinued issuance of new aquarium fish permits and renewal of existing aquarium fish permits.

DLNR will provide more information as it becomes available.