Can You Take Coral From Hawaii?

Hawaii’s magnificent coral reefs have captured visitors’ hearts and minds for many years. These ecosystems are unique works of nature because of their vivid colors, variety of marine life, and stunning underwater scenery.

However, amid the attractiveness, concerns about the legality of collecting them from the state have been raised. Can you take coral from Hawaii for personal use? What are the laws and regulations in place to protect these fragile and vital ecosystems?

In this article, let’s dive into the importance of coral reefs and find out why certain rules have been established to protect them.

Can you take coral from Hawaii?

No, it’s unlawful to remove coral from Hawaii unless you have special authorization for permitted uses. Removing coral, including stony coral, is illegal according to (HAR 13-95-70) because it disrupts the natural balance of marine ecosystems. Violators will receive fines and other legal consequences. This goes for living and dead coral.

Not only that but the legend says Pele, the goddess of fire and volcano, will put a curse on anyone that steals from the Island.

Key Takeaways:

  • Taking corals from Hawaii is against the law and not recommended.
  • The authorities can fine violators $5000 or more, depending on how severe the offense is.
  • Preserve the state’s coral reefs by leaving them undisturbed and avoiding littering in the sea.

Legal vs ethical

Scuba diver
Scuba diver | Image by joakant from Pixabay

It’s banned and against the law to take corals from Hawaii. According to HRS 171-58.5 and 205A-44, it’s against the law to take sand, dead coral, or coral rubble anywhere in the state. These rules are in place to keep marine environments from getting out of balance. Even corals that have died, like rocks and sand, are important to the marine environment.

Also, the Hawaii Administrative Rules (HAR) 13-95-70 say that it’s illegal to take any stony coral, like reef or mushroom coral, unless you have a Special Activity Permit for scientific, educational, management, or propagation purposes (HRS 187A-6). Also, HAR 13-95-71 says you can’t take a live rock, a natural hard substrate with visible marine life attached, without permission.

These rules are meant to protect these natural resources in the state and their ecological value. They emphasize the significance of preserving the natural balance and ensuring the sustainability of these delicate ecosystems. By following these rules, people help protect Hawaii’s coral reefs and keep their beauty and diversity for future generations.

Importance of coral reefs

Coral reefs in Hawaii hold immense importance due to their ecological, economic, and cultural significance. Here are some key points that show how important they are:

1. Biodiversity and ecosystem support

Fishes on deep reef
Fishes on deep reef | image by NOAA’s National Ocean Service via Flickr

Coral reefs are among the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, providing a habitat for a wide range of marine species. The state’s coral reefs are home to many kinds of fish, sea turtles, crabs, and colorful corals. These reefs are nurseries, feeding places, and homes for many different animals, and they help keep the ocean ecosystem healthy and diverse.

2. Protecting the coast

Coral reefs in good shape work as natural barriers that keep erosion and storm damage from damaging the coast. They help spread the energy of waves, making storms, hurricanes, and tsunamis less dangerous for coastal towns. They also help keep Hawaii’s shorelines stable and strong, which helps protect coastal habitats and structures.

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3. Tourism and economy

Hawaii’s coral reefs are major tourist attractions and contribute significantly to the local economy. Snorkeling, scuba diving, and other activities around coral reefs bring people worldwide to these places. These natural resources are a big part of the tourism industry, which creates jobs and brings in money to help local companies and communities.

4. Cultural heritage

Girl scouts learn about local hisory
Girl scouts learn about local hisory | image by NAVFAC via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

For the people of Hawaii, these natural resources are a very important part of their culture. The ocean and its resources are a big part of Native Hawaiian society.

Due to this, they’re essential to old traditions, customs, and stories passed down from generation to generation. They’re important spiritually and historically, showing the rich cultural history of Hawaii’s native people.

Punishment for taking coral

Taking corals from Hawaii illegally can result in serious consequences. If you ignore the laws and regulations about coral collection, you may receive significant penalties.

You may receive fines of up to $5,000 for a first-time offense. The exact amount of the fine can be influenced by the severity of the offense and the specific circumstances. Note that these fines are significant and show how serious the violation is.

Moreover, it’s crucial to understand that authorities can impose even harsher penalties on repeat offenders. A person who commits a second offense may receive fines that are twice as high as those for a first offense.

The financial consequences of violating coral collection rules aim to make people aware of the importance of protecting these delicate ecosystems and encourage responsible behavior.

What can I do to help protect coral?

Here are some ideas for preserving Hawaii’s coral reefs:

  • Don’t remove or disturb corals; leave them in their natural place.
  • Watch corals from a safe distance and ensure you don’t touch or harm them.
  • Don’t litter on land or at sea to protect coral reefs from pollution and debris.
  • Minimize the risk of entangling or damaging corals by using biodegradable fishing lines.
  • Use mooring buoys instead of dropping anchors near these natural resources to practice responsible boating—only anchor in sandy areas where corals aren’t present.
  • Select reef-safe sunscreen with non-nano zinc and/or titanium dioxide to protect your skin without adding harmful chemicals to the marine environment.
  • Adopt environmentally-friendly practices to reduce your carbon footprint.

Adhering to these recommendations may help save the state’s coral reefs and ensure their long-term health and sustainability.

Can I collect coral for personal or home use?

Corals underwater
Corals underwater | image by jcsandoval4 via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Once again, the answer is no. Removing, harming, or damaging any stony coral, including reef or mushroom coral, is against the law in Hawaii (as stated in HAR 13-95-70). Authorized exceptions are only allowed by law through a Special Activity Permit for scientific, educational, management, or propagation purposes (as outlined in HRS 187A-6).

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, taking coral from the state is illegal and strictly prohibited. Hawaii’s coral reefs are extremely important ecologically, economically, and culturally, and it’s crucial to preserve them. Coral collection can lead to serious consequences, like those $5,000 fines and even bigger ones for repeat offenders.