In an effort to protect the fragile ecosystems of coral reefs and the marine species they depend upon, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has launched a new campaign to end Hawaii's lucrative aquarium trade. The multi-billion dollar industry, which depends upon an estimated 500,000 fish taken from waters around the Aloha state each year, is regarded by activists has a severe threat to reef diversity and survival.

"The aquarium trade is a dark hobby," Mike Long, Sea Shepherd’s reef defense coordinator, said in a statement. "We are grateful to be here and involved in a movement to protect such a remarkable ecosystem."

Worldwide, an estimated 30 million marine creatures are scooped from reefs in some 40 countries, with the United States being the number one importer, followed by Europe and Japan. According to Sea Shepherd numbers, more than 90 percent of the marine animals end up dead within the first year due to either the stress of capture and transport or conditions of captivity. While a majority of the fish are captured in Indonesia and the Philippines (nicknamed "The Coral Triangle"), activists are focusing on Hawaii to raise awareness and influence new regulations that will hopefully one day send ripples far beyond

"We may lose support from people who keep captive marine wildlife for a hobby, but as Capt. Paul Watson has stated, our clients are the creatures of the sea," said Sea Shepherd’s Vice President Robert Wintner. "We hope that all people who are concerned for the oceans will recognize the importance of protecting reef ecosystems worldwide, and that if any of our supporters do keep marine wildlife in an aquarium, they will care for the wildlife they have and refrain from purchasing any more."

Sea Shepherd's efforts in Hawaii include working with diving shops and the surfing community as well as documenting the aquarium trade, a move that recently resulted in one of their divers being attacked by a fish collector.

"As the Sea Shepherd divers approached the coral reef, they came across two other divers poking coral and collecting fish. As they filmed from a distance, one of the collectors noticed the camera from afar and quickly 'rushed' diver Rene Umberger without warning and pulled the air regulator from her mouth," the organization wrote in a news release last month.

Added Sea Shepherd founder Watson, "This incident shows just how far fish collectors are willing to go in their greedy operations that are turning reef ecosystems, once teeming with life, into barren wastelands. The reefs are dying in our time, and Sea Shepherd remains committed to exposing the destruction caused by the lucrative global aquarium trade."

You can view video of the incident below.

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Sea Shepherd seeks end to Hawaii's aquarium trade
Organization is hoping to expose a multi-billion dollar industry that they say has 'little or no enforcement, monitoring and limits.'