How much is too much?
That sums up the view of conservationists who are taking the legal route to put the breaks on what they is a largely unregulated industry.
"They are concerned about the health of the reefs they see when they go diving, swimming and snorkeling, that are open to collection," said Earthjustice attorney Caroline Ishida.
Ishida who filed the complaint on behalf of the Conservation Council of Hawaii said fish collectors who sell to the aquarium trade worldwide are supposed to report how much of the prized reef fish they take from our reefs.
She says based on those reports some $720,000 fish and invertebrates were harvested last year.
Ichida says the state acknowledges the numbers of fish collected has increased over the last decade.
The fish take is focused mainly around Oahu waters and the Kona side of the Big Island.
The suit asks for an environmental study of the reef system and wants all collection halted until the review is complete.
"This challenge is about good information about the aquarium trade, so the state can make good decision about our reefs," Ishida said.
So, how much could this cost a cash-strapped department?
"The better question is the expense of not doing a review and allowing this practice to go unregulated, and the effect that will have on tourism, and the ability of people to put food on the table, and for people to enjoy the reefs in the state," said Ishida.
Earthjustice maintains the reefs are under lots of stress from things like pollution and global warming, and the unlimited collection of fish doesn’t make for a healthy reef.