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Can You Take Fish from Hawaii For An Aquarium?

underwater view of a large rock

Hawaii is home to a variety of vibrant tropical fish. Brightly colored species of butterfly fish, tang, idols, goatfish, parrotfish, and more inhabit the blue waters of Hawaii. After a fun-filled day of snorkeling with them, some of us might think of ways to make the joy last forever.

A question sometimes posed is, “Can you take fish from Hawaii for a home aquarium?” The answer is complicated. In most cases, you cannot and should not take fish from Hawaii for a home aquarium.

Keep reading to find out why you shouldn’t take fish from Hawaii for a home aquarium and what you should do instead!

Hawaii Banned Taking Fish

Oftentimes when people think of taking something from nature, they believe that they’re one of the few people taking it. Unfortunately, there has been an entire industry around collecting fish to keep as aquarium pets. What’s even worse is that this has caused extreme damage and stress to the coral reef’s ecosystem. As a result, Hawaii banned the commercial practice of collecting fish for aquariums, which has been a highly contentious debate.

According to The Center For Biological Diversity, Hawaii has decided to maintain the ban on collecting fish for aquarium petting and similar trade-offs. This ban was upheld in 2017 with no news on when it will be uplifted. The Supreme Court agreed to the fish ban, and it gave no timeline as to when it will be uplifted. The primary goal of this ban was to ensure that the reef ecosystem is optimized because almost all marine creatures rely on the reef ecosystem for their survival.

As a person and not a commercial entity, you are technically allowed to take fish from certain areas of Hawaii to a home aquarium according to the State of Hawaii’s Division of Aquatic Resources. However, West Hawaii bans you from taking them and possessing the equipment for aquarium collecting during certain hours. Certain areas of West Hawaii have even stricter bans on collecting.

You May Be Banned From Taking Fish Home

Protecting ecosystems is important to several states and countries. Your home state or country may ban you from importing certain species of fish because of the harm it might cause to the area’s ecosystem. Check with your state or local government for rules and regulations related to importing fish.

Fishing is a Different Story

Recreational fishing is generally allowed for tourists and residents. In addition to that, there are certain areas where shoreline fishing is prohibited. Before you go fishing, check for specific aquatic and marine-life regulations in those areas.

The permits and licenses issued to commercial fish collectors have also been suspended. Almost 230 commercial fishermen were affected by this ruling, and thus, the court placed the aquarium fishing industry on hold in 2017.

Morally, Taking The Fish Is Wrong

If you look at this problem from National Geographic’s point of view, you would see that aquarium fishing became the center of controversy because there has never been a record of where the fish are sold or bought. There is no centralized database. In addition to that, there is no central governing body that might regulate this industry. It has also been reported that traders from far-off places like the Philippines, Sri Lanka and likewise pump-up millions of marine creatures, and there is no governing body who might oversee this.

Several campaigns, such as the reef defense campaign, are also working to ensure that the marine trading and taking out fish from the wild to put them in the home aquarium must be banned altogether.

Meanwhile, the state is trying to push stricter rules and regulations that might help save the coral reef and similar reef organisms in Hawaii. All these rules and regulations are also specified and finely tuned in the charter issued by the State of Hawaii, Division of Aquatic Resources. This charter also specifies that most of the marine shorelines are private, and the public is not allowed to enter or hunt in those areas without the consent of the landowner. You can learn more about these rules and regulations in the latest PDF version of the current fishing regulations booklet issued by the State of Hawaii.

In Conclusion, You Shouldn’t Take Fish.

Following are the key points that one should never forget while choosing Hawaii as an option for home aquarium fishing:

  1. Jotting it all down to a single point, taking fish from Hawaii for a home aquarium is prohibited and illegal.
  2. Always keep in mind that the world is not so rich with marine life, and if the reef ecosystem gets disturbed, there is no way to save marine life.
  3. If you see someone having an aquarium fishing license in Hawaii, know that it is a controversial subject.
  4. The pro-aquarium trade says that banning fishing is helping thriving marine life. However, the majority of that group does not agree with it.
  5. If you want to enjoy Hawaii, try to take only photos and create memories there.

However, if you love marine life and want to spend time with it, book a snorkeling tour now with Kauai Sea Tours and see fish swim in their natural habitat.

Go Snorkeling with Kauai Sea Tours

Kauai offers world class snorkeling destinations teeming with fish and filled with beautiful coral reefs. Some of our favorite spots are located on the Nā Pali Coast and the Southwest side of the island. Our team provides gear, lessons, and more to ensure you have a great time swimming alongside tropical fish off the Na Pali Coast. Learn more and schedule a snorkeling voyage at

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