Fishermen question need for blanket ban on bottom fishing

Ron Tam
Ron Tam
Ed Watamura
Ed Watamura
Alton Miyasaka
Alton Miyasaka
Jarad Makaiau
Jarad Makaiau

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

KEEHI MARINE CENTER (HawaiiNewsNow) - Ron Tam and Ed Watamura are just two of the state's many commercial and recreational fishermen who disagree with the state's outright ban on bottom fishing in a dozen so-called spawning areas.

"There's no empirical evidence. You can't go down there and count the fish," Tam said.

The ban started in 1998 to prevent over-fishing of opakapaka, ehu, onaga and four other species.

Fishermen complain it's been thirteen years so the stocks have had ample time to grow.

"There's really no reason why it should be a closed area," Watamura said.

But the state insists the ban is still necessary.

"Bottom fish as a species live a long time. So it takes a long time for management schemes to have results," said Alton Miyasaka, aquatic biologist with the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources.

Fishermen contend the amount of bottom fish they see in open areas show a steady rise in supply.

Hawaii News Now asked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for its take of bottom fish stocks.

"We've been seeing, in terms of this new stock assessment, that the biomass -- the abundance of the fish -- may be more than we thought previously," NOAA fishery policy analyst Jarad Makaiau said.

The federal government sets the annual limit on the total pounds of bottom fish that can be caught in federal waters surrounding Hawaii. This year it will be 383,000 pounds -- up from 254,000 pounds.

Fisherman who oppose the state ban said the federal catch limit is all the management that's needed.

"The closed areas put a lot of pressure on the non-closed areas," Watamura said.

"It's an economic matter. It's the fishermen, both the commercial and recreational, as well as the consumer. Everyone is being affected," Tam said.

The state said it spread out the twelve restricted areas to split the burden among all fishermen.

But fishermen think the bottomfishing ban has bottomed out and the only thing it's doing is catching is a lot of flak.

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