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Fishing Woes

State ponders new bottom-fish regulations.

Some Molokai fishermen are not happy with proposed changes to the state’s bottom-fishing regulations, claiming they lack research and pose a slew of inconveniences.

“It’s as if it’s a done deal thing already,” one fisherman said in a public hearing last week. “But there’s no concrete evidence showing the regulations actually help.”

In recent weeks, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) held informational meetings and public hearings on the pending bottom-fish amendments. Molokai was one of the last islands to speak on the subject at Mitchell Pauole Center on March 23.

Playing by the Rules
One of the new amendments would allow the state to open and close bottom fishing by season, which it currently does not have the authority to do. As of now, the state only closes areas where bottom fish are caught. The updated regulation would be implemented to match existing federal rules, said Russell Sparks, education specialist for DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources.

The state rules would also change the noncommercial bag limit from only ehu and onaga to all seven deep sea species – the five others include hapuupuu, opakapaka, gindai  kalekale and lehi. The state is proposing the bag limit to be a total of five fish – per fisherman, per day – for any of the deep seven.

State officials are also advising commercial bottom-fish reports be altered from monthly reports to trip reports within three days, requiring bottom-fish vessels to be registered annually rather than one-time, and allowing the use of certain nets to take Kona crab while on bottom-fish vessels.

Sparks said the revisions are designed to conform with pre-existing federal regulations and help better manage bottom fishery.

“The proposed changes were the result of a chain of events,” Sparks said. “[The amendments] are sectored around consistency. Since the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 2006, we’ve been focusing on the deep seven.”

Sparks is referring to the act signed in January 2007 by former President George W. Bush to enhance protection of America’s commercial and recreational fisheries, end over-fishing and help replenish the nation’s fish stocks.

The Setbacks
Still, Sparks says it will be hard to determine the fine line between federal and state waters.

While state rules apply within three miles from the coastline, federal waters extend from state lines to 200 miles off the Hawaiian coastline.

Others agree whilst facing even more dilemmas.

Jersula Manaba, wife of Molokai commercial fisherman Dedrick Manaba, said she disagrees with the new trip reports and feels the three-day rule just doesn’t cut it.

“I’m lucky if I get to see my husband after the third day,” she said. “Maybe within two weeks or in [our] downtime we can fill out the reports.”

“Also, the closures should be lifted,” Dedrick added. “We need to spread out. Too much fishermen in one area is not good.”

Sparks said all testimonies presented in Molokai, as well as on other islands, will be reviewed by the Division of Aquatic Resources. Either changes will be made to the proposed state rules, or they will be approved and submitted to DLNR and the governor’s office for final consent.

More information and a copy of the proposed rule changes are available at http://www.state.hi.us/dlnr/dar.

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