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The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) announced that Governor Linda Lingle has approved amendments to rules that regulate the use of lay gill nets and prohibit their use in certain state waters. The rule changes are now in effect.

“The signing of these rules by Governor Lingle is another significant step in the Administration’s ongoing efforts to protect our near shore resources and ensure we will have fish for the future,” said Peter Young, DLNR chairperson.

Young noted that a recent study entitled The Case Against Lay Gill Nets, July 2006 (John E. Randall, Ph.D., Charles Birkeland, Ph.D., Richard L. Pyle, Ph.D., Randall Kosaki, Ph.D.) found that over fishing has led to the decline in reef fish in Hawai‘i waters, and responsible fishing practices are needed to sustain the fish population.  

“The total biomass of reef fishes in the Main Hawaiian Islands is less than a quarter of what it was a century ago,” the study said.  “While pollution, development and alien species are possibly all contributing to this loss, over fishing is the primary factor in the precipitous decline of our near shore fisheries.  When done responsibly, there are many ways to fish sustainably, such as pole and line, handline, throw net, and breath-hold spearing.”

Lay gill nets have shown to be indiscriminate and can catch nearly anything swimming by, including protected species such as Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles; are wasteful and violate the value of taking only what is needed; and can damage coral reefs and other fish habitat.

“We approach marine resource protection from a wide variety of perspectives, but without a change in the management of near shore reef fisheries, there is no reason to expect the marine resource decline to stop.  We will continue to fight to reduce sedimentation, invasive species and other impacts to near shore waters,” Young said.

“DLNR has taken these steps to protect Hawai‘i’s near shore marine resources by instituting requirements for more responsible and appropriate fishing practices.  We appreciate the many groups and individuals in the community, including fishers and native Hawaiians, who stepped forward to support these important rule changes,” Young said.

The public process
Rule changes are part of a long, inclusive process that started with meetings and recommendations of the Gill Net Task Force. which met in 1998-1999.  From 2002 to 2006, DLNR held three rounds of statewide public meetings and hearings to get community input on proposed lay net management regulations, based in part on the task force’s recommendations.  The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) also held community meetings.

Hawai‘i Fishing News (a local fishing publication) queried its readership in 2004 on their attitude towards lay gill nets.  Out of 848 respondents, 729 (86 percent) opposed the use of monofilament lay gillnets.

Nine final public hearings on the rule amendments were held statewide in July 2006.  Of the total 1,239 oral and written testimonies received, 85.88 percent were in favor of the rule changes, 12.11 percent were opposed, and 2.02 percent had mixed opinions.

Similarly, the Fair Catch organization supported a statewide telephone survey in 2006.  Of the 1,022 Hawai‘i residents queried, 76 percent supported the DLNR’s proposed rule change to further regulate the use of lay gill nets.  

What the rules changes say
The amended rules require the registration and identification of all lay nets, limit their maximum dimensions, limit their fishing or soak times to not more than four hours in daylight hours only, and require attendance and inspection of nets when fished, limit use to one net per person per day, and prohibit their use in streams and stream mouths.

The rule amendments prohibit lay net use in state waters around the entire island of Maui.  On O‘ahu, lay net use is prohibited between Portlock Point to Keahi Point (west of the Pearl Harbor channel), from Mokapu Peninsula to the northern boundary of Bellows Air Force Base, and in Kane‘ohe Bay seaward between the two ship channels, including Ahu O Laka.

The islands of Moloka‘i, Lana‘i, Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau will not have banned areas for lay net use; however, the new rule addressing registration, size, usage and soak time will apply to these areas. Existing rules in West Hawai‘i will continue.

“DLNR has been moving this process forward in an inclusive way, involving communities statewide in discussions of needed changes to existing rules. We have heard significant support from both the fishing and non-fishing public for these rules. We are committed to monitor the effectiveness of these rules,” Young said.

Penalties under law
Violations of lay net rule are subject to civil (fine of up to $1,000 for a first violation and graduated with subsequent) and or criminal penalties (a petty misdemeanor, subject to a fine of $250 for a first offense and graduated after that).

Rule amendments and maps are posted on the Division of Aquatic Resources website at http://www.hawaii.gov/dlnr/dar/regs/ch75.pdf

For more information, contact:
Deborah Ward
DLNR Public Information Specialist
Phone: (808) 587-0320


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