Large Commercial Retailers Take an Important Step for Coral Reef Protection
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Honolulu, Hawaii – November 19, 2009 – In a significant advancement for the protection of Hawaii's coral reefs, several of the largest commercial merchandisers in the state, including Longs Drugs and Walmart, have agreed to discontinue the sale of recreational snorkeling fish food in all of their Hawaii locations. These companies are following the lead of marine recreation businesses across the state that have become part of the Fish-Friendly Business Alliance through the "Take a Bite out of Fish Feeding" campaign, which discourages the practice of using food to attract fish for tourists to view.
"The use of fish food by tourists and tour operators can have negative consequences for both reefs and the tourism industry," said Liz Foote, Hawaii Field Manager for the Coral Reef Alliance and a leader of the campaign. "By feeding the fish, we are affecting natural ecological relationships on the reef. Furthermore, we have noticed more people being bitten by aggressive chubs (nenue, or rudderfish) and even blue-stripe snappers (taape) in places where fish food is used."
"We also have a problem here in Hawaii with invasive algae," adds Carlie Wiener, a researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. "Herbivorous grazing fish eat this algae, helping to clean up the reefs. However, when they are fed food from other sources, they stop eating the algae and other things that they should be eating. The algae is left to flourish, and can potentially smother the reefs."
Wiener and Foote have spearheaded the "Take a Bite out of Fish Feeding" campaign, working hard to convince businesses that selling fish food is ultimately a poor business practice. With support from the Coral Reef Alliance, the State Division of Aquatic Resources, Project S.E.A.-Link, and other partners, the two have spent years enlisting businesses to stop selling and using fish food, as well as educating visitors and locals alike about the effects and dangers of fish feeding.
One company that has recently agreed to discontinue the sale of fish food state-wide is Longs Drugs, which includes over thirty locations across Hawaii.
"As an experienced backpacker and a PADI Certified diver, I think it prudent not to be considered a food source for any wildlife...no matter what their size," says Bob Ingersoll, Vice President of Hawaii Operations at Longs Drugs. "All Longs Drug Stores in Hawaii proudly support the Fish-Friendly Business Alliance."
The recent effort to secure buy-in from the large retailers in Hawaii was taken up by San Francisco attorney Joshua Rosen, who learned about the project while visiting Hawaii last winter. He used the research, materials, and success from the campaign to convince these important merchandisers to voluntarily take fish food off their shelves in Hawaii. Rosen believes that the companies decided to act responsibly because of their own appreciation for Hawaii's marine life, and because it is in their best interest to become involved in local community efforts and support the long-term health of Hawaii's economy, which depends upon visitors having a good experience with the marine environment.
"This success is an important step in the ultimate goal of the "Take a Bite out of Fish Feeding" campaign to end the sale of fish food and to eliminate the practice of fish feeding throughout the state of Hawaii," said Wiener, who also hopes to begin work on an international program in the near future. "Mostly, it is about education. The majority of people do not want to do harm to our oceans, but are unaware that their behaviors have potentially dangerous impacts."
For more information about the "Take a Bite out of Fish Feeding Campaign" and to view the list of participating businesses, visit http://www.coral.org/fishfriendly.
About the Coral Reef Alliance
The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) unites communities to save coral reefs. We provide tools, education, and inspiration to residents of coral reef destinations to support local projects that benefit both reefs and people. Originally founded in 1994 to galvanize the dive community for conservation, CORAL has grown from a small, grassroots alliance into the only international nonprofit organization that works exclusively to protect our planet's coral reefs. Visit www.coral.org or call1-888-CORAL-REEF.