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Speeches & Testimony


Speeches & Testimony

Congressman Case's House Floor Statement on H.R. 6447, the Saving Natural Ecosystems and Marine Organisms Act

Statement on House Floor in support of H.R. 6447, the Saving Natural Ecosystems and Marine Organisms Act 

Congressman Ed Case, Hawai‘i District One

November 17, 2023

Mr. Speaker:

I rise today to urge my House colleagues to join in protecting our world’s fragile coral reef ecosystems by restricting international imports of protected ornamental reef fish and coral species collected by destructive and unsustainable practices.

Our oceans are indispensable to life on our planet, not only to our global environment but to the billions that are directly or indirectly reliant on its resources. Our oceans in turn rely on the health and diversity of our coral reefs, some of our most diverse ecosystems, with nearly 25% of the ocean’s fish dependent on coral reefs for shelter, food and reproduction. And our coral reefs are interdependent with healthy, diverse and sustainable marine flora and fauna.

Among these are prized ornamental reef fish and coral species highly valued by collectors. While it is possible to collect them at sustainable levels which do not harm the coral reef or broader marine ecosystem, high demand leads too often to unsustainable and destructive collection practices such as overcollection of species overall, overcollection of younger specimens, collection through reef-dredging, gill nets, explosives or poison, and harm to specimens leading to excessive deaths in transit. Most of the collection occurs internationally where most of our world’s coral reefs are found, in countries, such as in Southeast Asia, which do not have strong regulation or enforcement regimens against unsustainable or destructive practices.

As the largest importer of ornamental reef fish, our country has both responsibility for creating the demand that leads to such practices, and the opportunity to channel that demand to sustainable collection. The Saving Natural Ecosystems and Marine Organisms Act would do so by prohibiting the import into our country of protected reef species taken using unsustainable or destructive practices. The enforcement mechanism would be administrative certification, in conjunction with cooperating collecting countries where possible, that ornamental reef fish and species to be imported into our country were collected without following those practices.

I ask for my colleagues’ support of this bill which is one piece of a much larger effort to save our oceans from their own worst enemy: us.