More of Hawaii’s sought-after bottom fish appear to be headed to retail shelves in the 2011-2012 season.
A major advisory body to the U.S. secretary of commerce has recommended increasing the catch quota by 50 percent for seven bottom fish in the Hawaiian Islands.
"It’s great news," said Layne Nakagawa, a commercial fisherman.
The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, meeting in American Samoa, recommended setting the total allowable catch for bottom fish to 383,000 pounds for the 2011-2012 season, up from the 254,050 pounds set for 2010-2011.
If adopted by the commerce secretary, the new quota takes effect on Sept. 1.
Nakagawa said he and other fishermen have been working with federal officials tagging and releasing bottom fish to increase knowledge about the fish migration and population.
He said the Council’s decision, based on scientific studies, confirms what he and other Hawaii fishermen have been saying:
"There’s more than enough fish."
Nakagawa said the closure on March 12 — the earliest in the past four seasons with the same quota — showed there was an abundance of fish.
The bottom-fishing season for commercial, recreational and subsistence use in state and federal waters was closed Saturday in anticipation of reaching the quota of 254,050 pounds.
The bottom fish species covered by these rules include ulaula koae or onaga, ulaula or ehu, kalekale, opakapaka, ukikiki or gindai, hapuupuu and lehi.
The fish are usually found at a depth of 300 to 900 feet.
The bottom fishing closures have been occurring for the past four years in an effort to maintain their numbers at a sustainable level.
The date for the bottom fish closure is determined through estimating the day when the quota will be met. The March 12-Aug. 31 period this past season is the earliest closure.
The latest closure was on July 6, 2009.