Conserving-our-reefs-Yellow-Tangs. Custom Made Aquariums

Conserving our reef’s


In the not to long ago past, the beautiful bright yellow tang was our very favorite starter fish for our many large custom marine aquarium installations. It has all the advantages. It was beautiful, cheap, large, hardy and worked great in schools of 6 – 12 fish. The usual starter blue/green Chromis that so many of you are used to were too small to make the proper biological impact that the much larger yellow tang made. They were just perfect. Our clients absolutely loved them and they would thrive forever…. To this day we have scores of yellow tangs thriving in our hundreds of successful marine aquariums, with some over 10 years old. So why did we stop using them? Not by choice! They were legislated out of existence. Thanks to the efforts of a group of supposedly environmentally conscious people who were obviously not interested in scientific facts, only in their own agenda, the marine ornamental trade was shut down completely in Hawaii, the home of the yellow tang as well as many other unique saltwater fish.

Some background

Almost anyone in the know has heard of Robert ‘Snorkel Bob’ Wintner. To us aquarist’s, he is the enemy, a man with a blind hatred of all aquarium owners. A man who passionately wants to see the ornamental aquarium trade shut down. Completely, nada, with no discussion or allowance or compromise. In a different situation one might actually admire his concern for the Hawaiian reefs, even while arguing with his supposed facts.


The problem is that I suspect his passion is disingenuous and darkly similar to the fake passion exhibited by so many politicians that all of us know.  People in glass houses should not throw stones, and in my opinion, he is one hell of a hypocrite and the source of his anti-aquarium trade rhetoric is just an attempt to deflect attention from himself and his business that has enriched him considerably. Snorkel Bob, is Hawaii’s largest reef diving outfitter. All those tourist diver’s and snorkelers are renting equipment, instructors and boat transportation from him. He claims on his website to have put over 5 million snorkelers into the ocean. Imagine the residual reef damage that 5 million tourist-swimmers can do in a reef.

Divers and boaters, contribute significantly to both boat and scuba pollution Think reef killing boat fumes, PH lowering CO2 and oodles of tourist sunblock lotion spewed into the reef water column. In addition, think of coral skeletal breakage, tissue abrasion, and the reduction of hard coral coverage on reefs as a result of Diver impact damage. Diver fatigue, like it or not, is causing extensive damage to coral reefs all over the world. Divers, according to scientific evidence, are directly and/or indirectly responsible for the destruction of coral reef life as a result of their thoughtless behaviors. Almost 90% of divers who dive into a coral reef contact it at least once. The damage that the divers themselves do to the reefs is well documented and a simple google search can yield enough info to keep one busy for many hours.

On the other hand,

a search for the effect of the ornamental reef harvesting of livestock for the aquarium industry will also yield surprising results of a very different nature. You will learn that the reef industry is a viable, legal and monitored industry. CITES, NOAA, and the U.S. fish and wildlife service all monitor the import, export and sale of marine life.

Hawaii’s Aquarium Fishery has been studied more than any other fishery in the world and is considered to have the most well-managed ornamental marine fisheries on the planet. Both a 2,400 page Environmental Review of the West Hawaii fishery, and the Oahu Environmental Review, based in State fish counts and reports covering nearly 20 years of data, scientifically prove Hawaii’s aquarium fishery is eco-friendly, having low environmental impact. The head of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) – Suzanne Case, stated Hawaii’s Aquarium Fishery is a “Model Fishery. Most reef fish produce 10,000 to 5 million fry per spawning, and with spawning occurring up to as many as seven times per year, their ability to repopulate is staggering!  Moreover, marine biologists have stated that the Hawaii fisheries’ most favorite fish- the indigenous Yellow Tangs- produce one million fry per pair per year! ”.  With many reef fish populations on the rise overall, Hawaii’s Aquarium Fishery is the true definition of “Sustainability”.

Anti-aquarium activists have attempted to legislate the fishery out of existence for over a decade, but sound science and data continued to thwart their efforts. It wasn’t until opponents of the trade sought a judicial strategy that they found success at closing the fishery in late 2017.

Aqua Custom Fish tank

To highlight the hypocrisy of the current Hawaiian laws…. While the aquarium fishery in the state of Hawai’i remains shuttered, the free-for-all taking of reef fishes continues, as long as you intend to kill and eat the fish.

Worth thousands alive, these beautiful adult orange shoulder tangs can be creating many jobs and economic benefits, instead of being sold dead at $5/lb?

Aqua Custom Fish Tanks

The Unicorn Tangs in this picture are worth hundreds apiece alive and only $10 dead and it is legal to harvest them without any license or legal limits, but only if you kill them!

How long will we continue to allow hypocritical opportunists with their own biased agenda to dominate the public discourse and legislation? I long for the day when true science and common sense prevails over insanity and hyperbole, but I fear that that day is not near!


I am not a scientist and the opinions in this article are just mine and are based on information that I’ve read from other mostly internet based sources.