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HONOLULU (AP) - The state Board of Land and Natural Resources is
prohibiting spearfishing in waters off West Hawaii by people diving with
the aid of scuba gear.
The board voted 4-2 in favor of the ban after hearing more than six hours of testimony on fishing in the area.
The board also approved a new rule limiting aquarium fish collection in West Hawaii waters to 40 species.
Department staffers say measures will allow officials to more effectively regulate and manage marine resources.
But several fishermen testified in opposition of the proposals.
They say a scuba spearfishing prohibition is unwarranted. They worry such a rule will lead to similar bans elsewhere in Hawaii.
The rules were developed by the West Hawaii Fisheries Council community advisory group over 10 years of discussion and hearings.
[AP's earlier story is below.]
The state Board of Land and Natural Resources on
Friday will consider steps that would strengthen fishing rules in waters
off West Hawaii.
Proposals on the table include banning spearfishing
by scuba divers and allowing only 40 species of fish to be collected
for the aquarium fish trade.
Another proposal would update the boundaries of
Puako fish management area to reflect information newly learned from
satellite images of the reef.
Department staffers say the measures will allow
officials to more effectively regulate and manage marine resources.
They've recommended that the board adopt the rules.
But several fishermen oppose key proposals. They
say the science doesn't call for a ban on the practice. They're also
worried banning spearfishing off West Hawaii would set a precedent and
lead to other spearfishing bans around the state.
The proposed rules were developed over 10 years of
discussion and hearings by the West Hawaii Fisheries Council, a
community advisory group formed in response to a 1998 law that sought to
manage conflicts over fishing in the area.
Those in favor say scuba divers target larger fish,
which is a concern because the offspring of larger female fish survive
better and grow faster than the offspring of younger fish. They also
argue that scuba fishermen harvest in deeper waters where fish take
South Kohala resident Mel Malinosky testified
before the board that scuba spearfishermen are taking the fish that lay
the most eggs, and these specimens need to be kept in West Hawaii.
"This is not about restricting Hawaiian gathering
practices. If we have regular spearfishing -the reef could handle that.
There are advanced technologies that are taking too much," Malinosky
Phil Fernandez, president of the Hawaii Fishermen's
Alliance for Conservation and Tradition, Inc., said fishermen who
spearfish with the help of scuba gear go deeper and get different types
of fish than fishermen who free dive. He says they go after different
types of fish, like grey snapper or uku and pink snapper or weke ula.
Fernandez, of Kona, testified that development, use
of fertilizer on land and cesspools are more important factors than
overfishing that have led to damage to reefs.
"I agree it is 1 of the factors but there are many factors that do more harm to the reef," he said.
Tony Costa, of Hawaii Nearshore Fishermen, said
banning scuba spearfishing would compromise the community's ability to
gather food, as well as makes it unsafe and difficult to gather food. He
said the abundant fish catch of fishermen confirms stocks are healthy.
"The use of scuba and spear is the nature of our
gathering style. We have been sustainably gathering, harvesting in this
manner for the last 50 years," Costa said.
Nearly 90% of the 565 residents of West Hawaii who
submitted public testimony on the topic last year supported the scuba
ban. Similar percentages around the state and outside Hawaii supported
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