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Proposed state rules for fishing cover sea off Kona

By Associated Press


The state Board of Land and Natural Resources will consider strengthening fishery regulations off the Kona Coast when it meets today.

The board is scheduled to discuss and vote on several proposed rules, including ones that would ban spear­fishing by fishermen diving with the aid of scuba gear and limit the collecting of fish for aquariums to a list of 40 species.

Department staffers say the measures would allow officials to more effectively regulate and manage marine resources.

But several fishermen are objecting, saying a scuba spearfishing prohibition is unwarranted and could lead to similar bans elsewhere in the state.

The fishermen also oppose changing the boundaries of a fishery manage­- ment area off Puako. They believe there are more fish in the area than fish stock surveys indicate, and say pollution from development on land is harming the reef more than fishing is.

The proposed rules were developed over 10 years of discussion and hearings by the West Hawaii Fisheries Council, a community advisory group formed in response to a 1998 law that sought to manage conflicts over fishing in the area.

Those arguing for the ban say scuba divers target larger fish, which is a concern in part because the offspring of larger female fish have been shown to survive better and grow faster than the offspring of younger fish. They also argue scuba fishermen harvest in deeper water, where fish take refuge from free-diving spearfishing.

The department says 89 percent of the 565 western Hawaii County residents who submitted public testimony last year supported the scuba ban. Similar percentages around the state and outside Hawaii supported the prohibition.

But Phil Fernandez, president of the Hawaii Fishermen's Alliance for Conservation and Tradition Inc., said there's a benefit to scuba fishermen going deeper for their catch. He said they tend to target different fish — like gray snapper, or uku, and pink snapper, or weke ula — that have relatively healthy stocks.

If spearfishing with scuba gear is banned, fishermen will just fish more at shallower reefs, and fish stocks there will come under more pressure, he said.

The Kona resident said fishermen don't want a West Hawaii ban to set a precedent for other prohibitions elsewhere.

Fernandez and other fishermen also oppose redrawing the boundary of the Puako fishery management area based on updated surveys using satellite imagery of the reef.

Fernandez said that is because fishermen are being blamed for the reef's deterioration, even though he believes development on shore is more at fault. Polluted runoff is flowing into the ocean from paved roads, people using fertilizer on their lawns and the widespread use of cesspools, he said.

"There are many factors that's killing the reef," Fernandez said. "Fishing is probably the least harmful human use of that reef, yet fishing is what is being banned when they should be focusing their efforts on other areas."

Tina Owens, executive director of the Lost Fish Coalition, a group supporting reef conservation, counters that there's been relatively little development along the Puako coastline compared with, say, Maui, where development onshore has harmed reefs.

She said West Hawaii reefs aren't overrun with algae the way reefs elsewhere in the state are. She said overfishing is the major reason for declining reef health in West Hawaii and that it makes sense to address the issue as soon as possible.

"Yes, there are other factors," she said. "But overfishing is the major factor in most of these things."

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peanutgallery wrote:
The state is completely out of control on this one. They have no evidence to support their position. This is what's called a "knee-jerk" reaction, and does little to solve a problem. When it comes to the ocean and harbors, Hawaii is totally out of its league. It's a shame. We should be the showcase state for such things, instead; we're a laughing stock.
on June 28,2013 | 05:29AM
FISHMAN20 wrote:
Fishing should be considered a privilege not a right. It would be great if the resource was so vast that it could sustain any amount of pressure and harvest, but it isn't. There is far more pressure than the thin little reef around our islands can sustain. The old guideline of "take what you need and leave the rest" is great but isn't good enough. There are a lot of people out there trying to take what they need than the resource can provide. If you gauge what people "need" by how much seafood is consumed in the State then you have to accept that the VAST majority of the seafood is imported and the local supply cannot even come close to the demand. Sad but true. The resource has to be managed in a sustainable manner, and obvious facts that the fish populations are being devastated proves that the present management is woefully in adequate. We all have to be willing to give up a little and be responsible.
on June 28,2013 | 07:55AM
OldDiver wrote:
Well said.
on June 28,2013 | 09:49AM
OldDiver wrote:
The idea that suba spear divers are going after deep water fish which are not in danger is nonsense. They are spearing uhu's by the hundreds where as free divers are spearing them by the ones. The only fish which are bountiful are the rubbish fish. Time for us to wake up and protect our limited natural resources.
on June 28,2013 | 09:48AM
tiki886 wrote:
Scuba scares the fish away with the noise that the regulator makes.
on June 28,2013 | 07:07PM
tiki886 wrote:
I used to do a lot of scuba diving. Scuba is no advantage. When I try to get into deep Ulua caves beyond free diving limits such as 90 feet or more, the Ulua can hear me coming and they're gone by the time I get to the hole. As far as tuna is concerned, they're afraid of the noise scuba makes and they stay out of range.

However, ask yourself a question. How do you get more than a dozen Menpachi to market? They are reef fish who stay in nooks and crannys of the reef. They don't swim in open ocean schools.

There was an article years ago that they use scuba to cover a spot on a reef with nets and use powdered clorine in a garbage bag and then fill it with sea water. They put the clorine bomb in a Menpachi hole and pop the bag. The Menpachi as well as every living thing swims into the reef net. Why hasn't the Dept of Fish and Wildlife ask the fish markets questions as to who they bought reef fish from without any hooks or spear holes in them?

on June 28,2013 | 07:45PM
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