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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Drop off, don't dump, pet fish

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Staff Writer

Government, the pet industry and environmental groups are calling on Hawai'i residents not to dump aquarium plants and animals into streams and coastal waters. Instead, they have established a statewide system of collection aquariums where people can drop off unwanted aquarium life.

The program, Hawai'i Habitattitude, addresses the issue of problems caused by alien species in Hawaiian waters. An example is when the floating water fern, Salvinia molesta, became established in Lake Wilson, smothering lake life. The weed is believed to have come from aquarium dumping, and it cost an estimated $1.2 million to rid the reservoir of the weed. In other examples, there are streams in the Islands where native aquatic life is being challenged by dumped aquarium life, including fish, snails and plants.

"Salvinia in Lake Wilson brought this to the forefront," said Peter Young, director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. "Many of these introductions pose a threat to our native stream animals and unique freshwater ecosystems, and are due to lack of understanding by people of their consequences. Now, our reefs are also at risk from marine-aquarium-pet introductions."

Habitattitude urges people who want to get rid of aquarium life to call one of the drop-off locations to find out how to turn in the aquarium animals. Or consider donating aquatic life to another water gardener, pond owner or aquarist, to a classroom or an aquarium society. Aquatic plants can be sealed in plastic bags and placed in the trash.

On O'ahu, aquatic life can be dropped off at the Waikiki Aquarium, Hawaiian Humane Society, state Department of Agriculture plant quarantine building, and Waimea Valley Audubon Center (freshwater species only). On Moloka'i, try the Moloka'i Invasive Species Committee in Kalama'ula.

On Maui, go to the state Department of Agriculture and the Maui Humane Society (freshwater only). On the Big Island, Stockley's Pets, and the Department of Agriculture offices in Hilo and Kona (both freshwater only) accept drop-offs. On Kaua'i, go to the state Department of Agriculture, Kaua'i Humane Society (freshwater only) and Lihu'e Pet Shop (freshwater only).

For details on phone numbers and locations, see www.cgaps .org.

Hawai'i Habitattitude is part of a nationwide program to encourage turning in aquarium pets rather than dumping them. In Hawai'i, it is sponsored by the state Division of Aquatic Resources, Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA Sea Grant, and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council. It has the support of the Hawai'i Invasive Species Council; state Department of Agriculture; Waikiki Aquarium; Maui Ocean Center; humane societies on O'ahu, Maui and Kaua'i; Waimea Valley Audubon Center; and some pet stores.


Habitattitude information: www.habitattitude.net

Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species: www.cgaps.org

Information on invasive aquatic species: www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/aquatics/main.shtml

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com.