KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii >> A rules package that would ban scuba spearfishing in waters off West Hawaii has been sent to Gov. Neil Abercrombie for his approval.
Department of Land and Natural Resources spokeswoman Deborah Ward told West Hawaii Today that the document was delivered to the governor on Monday.
Ward says no substantive changes were made to the document, which was approved by the department’s board in June, before it was sent to the governor. The only changes were minor ones to correct grammatical mistakes, she said.
The new rules were developed over 10 years of discussion and hearings by the West Hawaii Fisheries Council. The council is a community advisory group formed in the late 1990s to manage conflicts over fishing.
The restrictions would prohibit spearfishing in waters off West Hawaii by people diving with the aid of scuba gear.
They would also limit the collection of aquarium fish to a list of 40 species and redraw the boundaries of a fishery management area off Puako using updated information on the reef.
The scuba spearfishing ban was the most contentious measure considered.
Those supporting it say scuba spearfishing harms fish stocks and the ecosystem. They said scuba divers target larger fish, which is a concern because the offspring of larger female fish survive better and grow faster than the offspring of younger fish. They also argue that scuba fishermen harvest in deeper waters where fish take refuge.
Fishermen testified before the board that the science doesn’t call for a ban on the practice. They’re also worried that banning spearfishing off West Hawaii would set a precedent and lead to other spearfishing bans around the state.