Gov. Ige bans all large-scale commercial harvesting of sea cucum - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Gov. Ige bans all large-scale commercial harvesting of sea cucumbers

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Gov. David Ige signed a measure on Thursday aimed at protecting Hawaii's sea cucumbers.

The permanent rule bans any large-scale commercial harvesting of sea cucumbers and will take effect on January 10.

The new rules follow on the heels of a 120-day emergency rule that temporarily banned all harvesting of sea cucumbers in Hawaii.

"The DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources) worked quickly to stop the mass harvesting of sea cucumbers, and then to develop and propose permanent rules," Ige said, in a news release. "This action is expected to protect and sustain critically important sea cucumber populations in our near-shore waters."

Harvesting spiked earlier this year when collectors virtually cleared some near-shore waters on Maui and Oahu of sea cucumbers.

DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case laid out the new rules: "Licensed aquarium collectors are now allowed to harvest two species of sea cucumbers from Oahu waters only, with a 20-per-day maximum and an annual take of no more than 3600 for the entire commercial fishery.

"These numbers are based on data collected over many years and is expected to be sustainable."

While harvesting is limited, Case says DLNR will monitor the effects of the new rules to make sure their limits are good enough.

"The rules allow a small level of take for personal, non-commercial use" Case said. "We will continue to monitor the sea cucumber population over the next few years to determine whether we've correctly set the harvest at sustainable levels, and if not whether we need to make adjustments in the future."

Sea cucumber populations across the Pacific and elsewhere have been decimated by large-scale commercial harvesting. 

These rules were approved by the State Board of Land and Natural Resources on December 11 after a series of statewide hearings. Prior to the implementation of the 120- day emergency rule, Hawaii did not have any regulations regarding sea cucumber harvesting.  

Dr. Bruce Anderson, administrator of the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources, believes the action is a significant step towards environmental preservation. 

"I'm very proud of the work DAR and the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) did to address this issue so quickly," Anderson said. "Without this prompt action the short-lived, mass harvest of sea cucumbers could have been an ecological disaster for the sea cucumber and its role in the health of Hawaii's coral reefs."

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