DLNR Backs Molokai Fisherman
“This is for us to make right,” said Auntie Judy Caparida on Tuesday, Jan 9, setting a tone of support for Molokai’s subsistence fishermen and their families. Molokai, along with the rest of the state, faces a total ban on gill net fishing.
But the news was good for the more than 40 people who crowded the room at the last Governors Council meeting. Officials from the Board of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the body responsible for establishing the proposed ban, said they were submitting a special rule change that would allow gill net fishing to continue on Molokai.
When it was first introduced over a year ago the proposed ban faced anger and frustration amongst Molokai’s fishing community who argued that the potential laws would impede subsistence practices. But community members held a series of self-organized meetings throughout 2006 that provided a detailed compromise which requested more lenient fishing restrictions from DLNR than an all out ban.
Peter Young, DLNR chairman, began his presentation at the meeting by praising the pro-active stance of the community. He stated that Molokai presented “no mixed message,” upon the subject despite the differences of opinion shown on other islands.
Indeed Molokai residents did not send mixed messages exactly one week later at DLNR’s Gill Net Hearing in the halau at Kulan `Oiwi. “We are sustenance fisherman. Truly these are still the good ole days here on Molokai…. I support Molokai’s gill net amendments,” said Maunaloa resident Byron Espaniola.
Every person who testified at the hearing gave their support for the “Molokai-only” set of rule exceptions, though some had issues with the broader state-wide changes.
The amendment would permit, amongst other things, the use of nets up to 750 feet long for a set time of 12 hours.
Whilst pleased that DLNR would endorse exemptions from a total ban, numerous fishermen at both meetings addressed the need to prevent over-fishing by outsiders and specifically asked that laws be set forth that would exclude off-islanders from fishing Molokai waters.
As for enforcing the proposed rule changes, Young informed those at the meeting that a hotline has been set up at (808) 643 DLNR. He assured that, despite the answering machine format, “if you call, they will come.”
Residents went on to discuss other potential issues like invasive algae and the ability to enforce new rules. However, in light of the successful community campaign to change Molokai’s fishing destiny, enforcement is seen to present less of a worry. One person at the meeting joked, if they want better enforcement; “give them Auntie Judy’s number.”