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New West Hawaii fishing rules ban scuba spearfishing

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 04:32 p.m. HST, Dec 15, 2013

Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed new rules Saturday that would ban scuba spearfishing in waters of West Hawaii.

The West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area 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.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the rule changes on June 28, after considering more than 1,200 pieces of testimony and 2,300 comments.

Fishermen testified before the board that the science doesn't call for a ban on the practice. They also worried that banning spearfishing off West Hawaii would set a precedent and lead to other spearfishing bans around the state.

The new rules apply in the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area, which is about 147 miles from Upolu Point, North Kohala to Ka Lae, Kau. The rules:

    1.    prohibit take or possession of nine species of inshore sharks, rays and two invertebrate crown-of-thorns predators;

    2.    establish a list of 40 fish species permitted for aquarium take with size and bag limits on three of these species (No other fish may be collected for aquarium use);

    3.    establish a 1,500-foot section of Kaohe Bay (Pebble Beach) in South Kona as a Fish Replenishment Area (FRA) where aquarium collecting and/or recreational fish feeding is prohibited;

    4.    prohibit scuba and/or re-breather spear fishing or possession of such gear with a spear and/or speared aquatic life;

    5.    clarify the boundaries of Puako Bay and Puako Reef; and

    6.    clarify the no-netting boundaries of the Keauhou Bay Fisheries Management Area.

The rules can be seen at the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources website: http://state.hi.us/dlnr/dar/announcements.html .


The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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kalaoa wrote:
Many inshore areas of Japan harvesting is allowed only with free-diving (ama, primarily women) recognizing this allows sustainability of their resources...and their traditions. In some places, only a limited time/days is this allowed. Like any island, continued expansion of harvesting or building will lead to ruin.
on December 15,2013 | 08:45AM
Slow wrote:
Mahalo for the action to protect our environment. We can get citizen input and legislate sensible limitations on human greed. Yes, we can actually do something positive for Hawaii.
on December 15,2013 | 08:55AM
islandsun wrote:
Good move Gov. Now its time to get going on a complete ban for all South Shore. Gotta stop the greed.
on December 15,2013 | 09:50AM
Kealii wrote:
"Fish are friends, not food!" - Bruce the shark
on December 15,2013 | 10:20AM
yhls wrote:
Long overdue. For once, the governor is doing something right. We need more fishing bans as well as enforcement throughout Hawaii.
on December 15,2013 | 10:28AM
Grimbold wrote:
According to the reports of the old ones I heard them often say :"when there were still fish...this and that.." Only nowadays people do not know that we have 99% less fish and crabs than before. The whole idea of allowing everybody to fish when you have 10 fishermen for every fish and deadly efficient cheap catching equipment is devastating the ocean life.
on December 16,2013 | 04:43AM
OldDiver wrote:
Oahu next.
on December 15,2013 | 10:47AM
BluesBreaker wrote:
Need to have fishing licenses for all species and fines for those who violate license regulations. Fines should be used to pay for game wardens to enforce regulations. This arrangement works well in other states and protects the stock of fish for sport fishermen.
on December 15,2013 | 11:05AM
LanaUlulani wrote:

Never a good idea to ban HAWAIIANS from fishing thus from exercising their religious and spiritual beliefs.

on December 15,2013 | 02:34PM
Kealii wrote:
It probably isn't a good idea to ban people from exercising their religious beliefs but that never stopped the government from trying.
on December 15,2013 | 02:52PM
Grimbold wrote:
Keep believing, instead of facing reality! Kaneohe Bay would be black with fish if the resource was managed. The way it is now I see fishermen casting and casting . They jump up and howl with excitement if they catch one measly fish after weeks of casting. That's what the world has come to!
on December 16,2013 | 04:51AM
jomama wrote:
With scuba gear. Nice.
on December 15,2013 | 08:32PM
HawaiiHiker wrote:
Native Hawaiians never traditionally fished with scuba gear.
on December 15,2013 | 11:00PM
inHilo wrote:
Didn't Hawaiians back in the day practice conservation? I have always heard they were ahead of the curve when it came to recognizing the need for sustainability. I imagine that their religion as part of the ruling structure would have supported those efforts.
on December 16,2013 | 05:26AM
Mana07 wrote:
There we go again...the favorite action of the left..."Ban"
on December 15,2013 | 05:19PM
CloudForest wrote:
Give them food stamps and soup kitchens - so that they all become wards of the state. It is all about power and control. First take their food, then fine them, fee them and control every aspect of being self sufficient - then you own them in every possible way.
on December 15,2013 | 06:17PM
CloudForest wrote:
So let me get this right, not allowed to have a spear, sling or bang stick for self defense - sounds like a good way to feed the sharks humans on a regular basis. No scuba gear with spears = way too many cases of shallow water black outs and lives lost to feeding the whims of the eco-nuts and their willing control freaks in government.
on December 15,2013 | 06:20PM
Infamous_Hawaii wrote:
All of you are sheep saying how good this is. I'm not a diver in anyway but a fisherman. I went to all the hearings for this because any type of ban on fishing is bad because it just opens the doors to more bans. This new law only affects a few dozen and won't make a big as a impact as all you sheep think. Just remember they ban one thing then the next. Whats next?
on December 15,2013 | 07:06PM
bekwell wrote:
What else can you expect from politicians. They don't like fish, so nobody can like fish. If you wan to save the fish population around Hawaii, Ban the Japanese and other foreign commercial fisherman off out shores.
on December 16,2013 | 03:40AM
Grimbold wrote:
Infamous, have you not noticed that 99% of the previous abundance of fish have disappeared and people now resort to even kill junk fish for lack of edible fish?
on December 16,2013 | 04:36AM
inHilo wrote:
"Just remember they ban one thing then the next. Whats next?" It's called a slippery slope, and it doesn't exist. For example, Did you know the government is going to make a law against stealing a person's wallet? Oh no, don't let them do it. They ban one thing then what's next!
on December 16,2013 | 05:31AM
Grimbold wrote:
Spearfishing extincts territorial fish like gropers definitely and should be banned.
on December 16,2013 | 04:34AM
808comp wrote:
More laws which the state can't enforce because they don't have the man power.
on December 16,2013 | 05:01AM
Kaluu wrote:
HI should allow killing by any means (that wouldn't arm other fish) the Tahitian fish that the State of Hawaii imported decades ago. From what the state government guys used to say, those Kahiki fish are delicious. They also compete for food. SCUBA divers should be encouraged to wipe em out. I hate seeing those fish and pau the uu, kole nukuheu, mu, etc.
on December 16,2013 | 05:42AM
Kaluu wrote:
Wow! Unbeeleebabble! Da sensa wen lemme go tell da word, "hate." What is this nupepa coming too, yeah?
on December 16,2013 | 05:44AM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
I know there's a lot of local ppl who like to go diving (and spearfishing), but I think this is a good ban, b/c diving-spearfishing is just too unfair to the fish, too easy to wipe out a lot at one time. Hawaii is already super fished out, stuff like this helps revitalize the stock. At least with fishing, you can catch and release, and the fish has a fighting chance. With spearing, one shot and pau, plus the fish often has no idea what is happening before it's too late. Until there's evidence our fish stocks in Hawaii are way above normal, we all need to do things to help conserve and bring back the populations. Sad that there's so little fish these days, I used to hear the stories of my Grandpas and their generation and even older generations, and it would be great having things back to that for the future generations.
on December 16,2013 | 11:35AM
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