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Case Calls For Restrictions On Importing Ornamental Reef Fish and Coral Species Collected By Destructive Practices Into The United States

His “Saving NEMO Act” aims to protect the world’s fragile reef ecosystems

(Honolulu, HI) – U.S. Representative Ed Case (Hawai‘i-First District) has introduced into Congress proposed federal legislation to protect the world’s fragile coral reef ecosystems by restricting international imports of protected ornamental reef fish and coral species collected through destructive practices. 

Case’s H.R. 6447, the Saving Natural Ecosystems and Marine Organisms (NEMO) Act, comes as the Hawaii State Board of Land and Natural Resources meets today to consider further restrictions on the taking of certain reef fish.

The meeting follows a recent study here showing that overfishing of certain species such as convict tang or manini can undermine the health of coral reefs.

“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,” said Case. “Our oceans in turn rely on the health and diversity of our coral reefs, some of our most diverse ecosystems, with nearly 25 percent 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."

Case said his act would do so by prohibiting the import into our country of protected reef species taken using unsustainable or destructive practices.

“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.”

ATTACHMENTS: Introductory Floor statement, bill text and bill summary.