Frequently asked questions about taking, breeding, and transporting marine life for aquariums

Can I collect marine life for aquariums to sell for commercial purposes?
No. On January 12, 2021, the First Circuit Court in Kaupiko, et al. v. DLNR (CIV. NO 1CCV-20-0000125) ruled that all Commercial Marine Licenses issued pursuant to Hawai‘i Revised Statutes §189-2 are invalid, illegal, and void to the extent that such licenses permit commercial aquarium collection. At present, all take of marine life for commercial aquarium purposes is illegal. See this announcement for news on the Court Rulings Regarding Aquarium Fishing.

What are commercial purposes?
Hawai‘i Revised Statutes § 187A-1 defines “commercial purpose” as, “the taking of marine life for profit or gain or as a means of livelihood where the marine life is taken in or outside of the State, or where marine life is sold, offered for sale, landed, or transported for sale anywhere in the State.”

What are aquarium purposes?
Hawai‘i Revised Statues § 188-31 defines “aquarium purposes” as, “to hold aquatic life alive in a state of captivity as pets, for scientific study, or for public exhibition or display, or for sale for these purposes.”

What is marine life?
Hawai‘i Administrative Rules §13-74-1 defines “marine life” as, “any type or species of saltwater fish, shellfish, mollusks, crustaceans, coral, or other marine animals, including any part, product, egg, or offspring thereof; or seaweeds or other marine plants, including any part, product, seed, or root thereof.”

Can I breed marine life for commercial aquarium purposes?
Yes, breeding and rearing captive marine life for commercial aquarium purposes is allowed. The cited case rulings only apply to the collection of marine life, not possession of captive marine life obtained legally.  If you need wild-caught specimens for broodstock purposes, a Special Activity Permit (HRS §187A-6) will be required for lawful collection. Additionally, if the marine life being cultured is aquatic life or live rock whose fishing for, possession, or sale is regulated by seasonal, size, or bag limits (e.g., manini), an Aquaculture License (HAR §13-74-43) would also be required.

Can I import marine life into Hawai‘i or transport marine life through Hawai‘i if the marine life is not collected in Hawai‘i?
Importation of marine life into Hawai‘i and transportation of marine life through Hawai‘i are not affected by the cited case rulings. These activities fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture, and any questions regarding inter-Hawai‘i shipment of marine life should be directed to them.