Record Roi Round-Up
Molokai divers joined forces last month for a cause – to save native fish species by ridding the island of about 1,000 pounds of invasive roi.
“Nowadays everyone is about malama this, malama that. This is really giving back to the reef,” said local diver Dicky Dowling, who organized the second annual Molokai Roi Tournament. “That’s the most invasive species… Somebody gotta do something, you cannot just stand on the side.”
In the 1950s, the Hawaii Department of Fish and Wildlife introduced roi as a game fish for food. However, they have now overtaken the reef and prey on native reef fish. According to an article in the Division of Aquatic Resources newsletter, University of Hawaii scientist Jan Dierking estimated that roi eat 99 tons of reef fish every year in a three-mile square area of Kona coastline. Roi also spread ciguatera, a neurological disease in humans resulting from eating fish infected with the poison. Few people in Hawaii today view roi as a food source.
This year, Dowling said 70 divers participated in the tournament and together, harvested a state record of 1,314 roi fish. That’s a big increase over last year, when 20 divers caught a little under 800 roi.
The tournament took place on March 28, and divers harvested from boats from Wavecrest to Hale O Lono during a six-hour period, said Dowling.
With a majority of Molokai divers participating, Dowling said some off-island fishermen also came over. Tournament rules mandated that they dive with a Molokai group at all times.
“[That way] Molokai guys could educate at the same time, they could experience on a first-hand basis…not just the social media stuff,” he said, referring to the negative buzz that many off-island divers hear about Molokai. “The feedback that I’m getting from the off-island guys is unbelievable right now.”