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Importation of Non-domestic Aquatic Animals

A. Legal Authority

  • Lacey Act, 18 U.S.C. 42
  • 50 CFR 16 et seq.
  • Chapter 150A, HRS, Hawaii Plant Quarantine Law
  • Title 4 Subtitle 6, HAR, Department of Agriculture, Division of Plant Industry


B. Purpose

The purpose of the Permit to Import Restricted Commodities into Hawaii is to control the importation and movement between islands of specific plants, insects, microorganisms, and non-domestic animals that are or could be detrimental to the agricultural and aquacultural industries, natural resources and environment of Hawaii.

C. Applicability to Aquaculture

Anyone desiring to import aquatic animals, plants and microorganism cultures into Hawaii must obtain a Permit to Import Restricted Commodities from the Plant Quarantine Branch (PQB), Department of Agriculture (DOA). Though called the PQB, the Branch oversees all plant, animal, and microorganism imports into Hawaii. This permitting process is important to the local aquaculture industry because much of the industry grows nonnative species.

To manage exotic species importation, the DOA maintains three lists of specific species that are established by going through a rule making process: 1) Prohibited; 2) Restricted A and B; and 3) Conditionally Approved. If a particular species is listed and has been allowed previously under established permit conditions, and the new import request is for a similar purpose, then the process is a straight-forward administrative approval.

However, if the importation is for an unlisted (new to Hawaii) species, the organism must first be placed on a designated list, which is initiated when an application and species profile is submitted to the PBQ for a submission to the Board of Agriculture (BOA). The submission goes through a multi-tiered review, which includes reviews by two advisory committees, and then recommendations by the PQB to the BOA. Based on the Board decision and following public hearings, the species will be placed on one of the three lists.

There are separate lists for microorganisms.

In general, organisms on the prohibited list are not allowed for importation into the state. Organisms on the Restricted List require a permit for both importation and possession and the list is separated into Parts A and B. Part A includes species used primarily for research or display by recognized government agencies. Part B includes species that may also be imported for private and commercial use. All Restricted species are monitored closely and movement within the state is only by permit.

The Conditionally Approved List is reserved for organisms that present the lowest risk in the event of escape or unauthorized release into the environment. These species may or may not be monitored after arrival.

D. Administering Agency

The permit is administered by the Plant Quarantine Branch. Permit decisions on animals for which a permit application has been previously made and the Board of Agriculture has ruled, can be made by the Branch Chief. Decisions on new animals or organisms are made by the BOA, based on an application.

Plant Quarantine Branch
Department of Agriculture
State of Hawaii
1849 Auiki Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96819-3100
Phone: 808-832-0566
Fax: 808 832-0584
Web site:

E. Information Requirements

For animals the entry of which has been previously permitted (previously listed), an applicant submittal should include:

  • Name and address of the shipper and importer;
  • Method of shipping and approximate quantity and species type (scientific name);
  • Purpose of the importation;
  • Mode of transportation; and
  • Approximate date of shipment and arrival.

For new animals or organisms, the following additional information is necessary to allow reviewers to make a responsible and informed decision on potential risks verses economic benefits:

  • Statement of reasons for importation;
  • Person responsible for the importation;
  • Description of the containment facility and the safeguarded to prevent escape;
  • Detailed species profile, including information on: 1) local prey; 2) potential competitors; 3) feeding strategy and diet; 4) diseases and treatments; 5) reproduction; and 6) environmental requirements of life stages; and
  • Means of transportation.

Microorganisms will have special information requirements and applicants should contact PQB for a complete list.

F. Public Participation

Decisions for the listing and importation of new species are subject to public meetings of the Advisory Committee on Plants and Animals and the Board of Agriculture. Before the regulations are changed to add a new species, a public hearing must be held in every county.

G. Process Time

The regulations do not provide a specific time frame for a decision on the permit application and duration of the process will vary with the complexity of the request. Already listed species, subject to requests with similar conditions can be processed in as little as two weeks. Applications for new species could take twelve months or longer.

H. Sequence of Filing

The PQB permit must be obtained prior to importation of the organism of interest.

I. Cost

Table listing the costs associated with an element of obtaining permits for aquaculture in Hawaii
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Department of Agriculture – Aquaculture and Livestock Services
99-941 Halawa Valley Street
Aiea, Hawaii 96701-5602
Phone: 808-483-7130
Fax: 808-483-7110
Web site:


Pacific Region Aquaculture and Coastal Resource Hub
2525 Correa Road, HIG 238
Honolulu, HI 96822
Phone: (808) 956-7031

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