WAILUKU, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - New rules are being considered that would place fishing limits on two popular fish in waters around the island of Maui.
The proposed rules were developed over a five-year period to reverse a decline in the populations of parrotfish and goatfish.
According to aquatic biologists, the parrotfish, or uhu, is essential to reef systems in Hawaii.
"The way they graze on algae and scrape it off the rocks stimulates beneficial types of seaweed on the reef, and really helps keep the reef system healthier," said Russell Sparks, an aquatic biologist with the state Division of Aquatic Resource's Maui office.
The new rules would limit the take to just two uhu per person, per day, to prevent overfishing in Maui waters.
"Parrotfish sleep at night," said Sparks. "Oftentimes people can go out at night with lights and scuba gear and whatever and affect the population on a particular reef."
Smaller uhu would be limited to a minimum size of ten inches, while larger ones would have a minimum size limit of 14 inches. There also would be a complete ban on the large blue males, including the uhu 'uli'uli and uhu 'ele'ele. They're highly prized because of their large size. Overfishing those would affect reproduction.
There are also proposed rules for several species of goatfish, most of which aren't currently regulated.
"I think moano is regulated and seven inches. Kumu is regulated at eleven inches. And that's about it," said Sparks. "There's none of the other species being regulated, but they're all highly prized and highly fished for."
The proposed rules come as the number of young fish as exploded over Hawaii's reefs this summer. But Sparks said a lot of those juvenile fish aren't expected to survive until adulthood, falling prey to predators or losing competition for food.
"We are seeing really good recruitment this year, but unless we manage these fishing stocks appropriately, we don't expect those fish to grow up so we see really high levels of adults."
The new rules will cover Maui coastal waters out to three miles. The state Land Board will consider the rules on Friday.