The Snorkel Bob Foundation has announced a grant of $31,650 to match funds committed by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for a campaign to protect Hawaii reefs and wildlife from aquarium-trade collectors.
Snorkel Bob Foundation Executive Director Robert Wintner explained the objective of the funding: “Underwater was under the radar to most people in Hawaii until our campaigns in the legislature and at County levels around Hawaii. Every campaign requires educational outreach that opens eyes and hearts around Hawaii. Hawaii Island County Council got it right, passing a resolution for a statewide ban on the trade. The council affirmed, ‘…in a cultural and environmentally driven tourism economy the continued protection of our reefs and reef inhabitants enhances the overall cultural experience and brings millions of tourism dollars into State coffers.’” Wintner said many people around the Hawaiian Islands know that Kona is the hub of aquarium extraction in the Islands. Now they’re learning of the animal cruelty aspect of the aquarium collecting business at the county level.”
“We seek to stop the atrocious mortality I have seen in reef wildlife shipments,” said Humane Society International Executive Director Teresa Telecky. “Polling shows that Hawaii residents overwhelmingly want the aquarium trade to end. Barring that, they strongly support county action such as the landmark anti-cruelty law Maui County enacted which ended harmful practices that sacrificed wildlife well-being to a business bottom line. Ending the waste of wildlife will lead to healthier reefs and more fish up and down the food chain.”
Big Island fisherman and Aquarium trade opponent Mike Nakachi said, “I’m an endemic species here on Hawaii Island. I served on a fisheries council for fifteen years and saw nothing but aquarium collectors take over and call the shots. It’s not right. I’m grateful that two outstanding organizations on Hawaii Island will now enable meaningful management to a Hawaii public trust.”
The Snorkel Bob Foundation also works in conjunction with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, where Wintner is also national vice president. “Both organizations were represented on the Kona Coast last month, when an aquarium collector attacked a woman with a GoPro camera, ripping out her air supply at 5 feet [in depth]. That Big Island county prosecutor is currently investigating that attack, and so is, presumably, DLNR,” said Wintner.
Wintner also announced “another gift to the people of Hawaii Island, a big screen virtual reef TV, on loan, to demonstrate the fragile beauty of Hawaii’s coral reefs and wildlife. The video reef system will show Big Island reefs and critters at home in the wild, with reef cam footage provided by UNtanked. The TV and reef cam footage will be on display in the Kona County Council office reception area. The video features native reef species on West Hawaii reefs, their natural homes.
UNtanked inventor Shawn Verne said, “Unlike fish captured and shipped in the aquarium trade, no wildlife is harmed in the UNtanked virtual aquarium system.” UNtanked also plays on multiple screens throughout the recently dedicated, $331 million NOAA Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center on Ford Island in Honolulu.
Hawaii Island County Council Vice-chair Karen Eoff, representing North Kona, said, “Our coral reefs are among Hawaii’s most precious resources. Having the large screen virtual reef displayed in our lobby allows people to experience and appreciate the beauty of the fish and wildlife in West Hawai’i in their natural environment. We need to do all we can to protect our fragile reef ecosystems.”