Friday, January 29, 2010

Tragedy on Hawaii's Reef Fish
A Tribute to 551 Dead Yellow Tangs and 59 Reef Fishes

"Tropical Fish Dump Prompts Outrage - More than 600 fish found dumped at harbor"
This tragic story was on the cover of our local newspaper, "West Hawaii Today". A photo of hundreds of dead yellow tangs, Zebrasoma flavescens, and other reef fish like butterfly fishes was just too shocking to see, and too hard to comprehend why.

I don't think the commercial fish collecting is a sustainable business unless it is strictly regulated and actively monitored.

As you can see here, professional fish collectors can easily catch a lot of them, and can be careless and irresponsible about the environment. It is infuriating as well as very sad to see the thing like this actually happened here. No wonder most of pretty reef fish around Kona hate divers and quickly flee from them.

Yellow tangs are usually the first to leave cleaning turtle when divers approach, so the shot like this is becoming a historical event in these days. Due to the relentless yellow tang hunting, their DNA has already been altered to avoid humans at all cost. Pretty soon we'll only have gold-ring surgeonfish, Ctenochaetus strigosus, at turtle cleaning station because they are abundant and friendly because they have not been hunted by fish collectors due to their low market value.

endangered green sea turtle, Chelonia mydas, being cleaned by yellow tang, Zebrasoma flavescens, gold-ring surgeonfish, Ctenochaetus strigosus, and endemic saddle wrasse, Thalassoma duperrey, Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

Our reef fishes are disappearing fast due to the persistent, thoughtless fish collecting. It's a fact that any diver or snorkeler can see and confirm. Have you notice how timid and shy our reef fishes are when you approach compared to else where? They are afraid of you. Have you notice how little reef fish we have around Kona when compared to officially protected areas such as the Kealakekua Bay or compared to reefs on other Islands like Maui or Oahu?

Even very fist time I dove around Kona more than a decade ago, I noticed the small amount of fish as well as their timidity and diffidence. "Why there is no fish in this pretty coral reef?" "Why fish is so afraid of me?" Those are the very first questions I asked my dive operator back then, and nothing has changed or even addressed until today.

endangered green sea turtle, Chelonia mydas, being cleaned by yellow tang, Zebrasoma flavescens, and gold-ring surgeonfish, Ctenochaetus strigosus, Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

We have a thriving scuba diving industry, and Kona is usually ranked pretty high among the best dive destinations in the world. To me diving in Kona is overrated because of the poor fish count and their fleeing behavior.

It's a shame that the goverment and we cannot stop such devastating, anti-environmental business activity. I think it's time to ban the unsustainable fish collecting activity before our fish really extinct from this precious and unique Hawaiian coral reef.

Existence of a lot more colorful, friendly reef fish should promote healthy reefs and benefit everybody. Eventually the abundance of pretty reef fish will raise more big fish and drive more fishermen, divers and snorkelers to this island. I thought we learned the lessen from the past like whale watching makes more sense than whale hunting.

Why don't we develop and promote a new sustainable business to raise pretty aquarium fish like yellow tangs in a fish farm at NELHA (Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority? We can even replenish the reef after we raise enough for aquarists. That'll be a win-win situation. No brainer, don't you think?

Very sad day in Kona...

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