Monday, November 15, 1999

Press release photo
This is what a school of akule looks like underwater.
The picture was taken by Tsueno Sasaki in Saipan.

Fisheries forum
‘a big step’ toward

Managers and fishers
discuss ways to maintain
fish populations in Hawaii

By Lori Tighe


Fishers, scientists and state managers put aside differences and learned from each other in what some called an unprecedented meeting this weekend.

The Fisheries Forum 2000 drew state fishery managers and longtime local fishers together Saturday to discuss the problems and solutions to maintaining fish populations throughout the Hawaiian island chain.

"Fishery management has always been antagonistic between managers and fishermen. We're realizing that changing that would bring progress," said Kevin Wang, a University of Hawaii scientist.

Wang has been on the boat of local akule fisherman Ale Tolentino several times this year to learn Tolentino's perspective.

"It is a big step," agreed Tolentino, a commercial fisherman for 20 years. "At least now, scientists are willing to listen to fishermen. Until we stop blaming fishermen for everything, we'll get nowhere."

"If you talk about the health of the fish, you talk about the health of people, the ocean and the reef," said Mike Markrich, chairman of Malama Na la, an organization working for the protection of fish and the lifestyle of Hawaiian fishermen. "The ocean is used by different groups for different purposes, but a solution is out there."

The goal of the forum was to develop three recommendations for action. Instead, the meeting produced three dozen ideas, said Sylvia Spalding, spokeswoman for the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

Three of the most primary ideas included education of fishermen, children and the public on ocean issues; how communities can take the initiative to effect change; and the promotion of traditional Hawaiian native values in fisheries.

The forum will be broadcast on the public access Channel 55 in three weeks.

"The most important issue is to promote a continuing forum for all those interested in marine fisheries," said Tim Johns, director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, who opened the Fisheries Forum 2000 at University of Hawaii's law school Saturday. "We can do the job better, but we need good information collaboratively and not confrontationally."

Johns has earned the respect of fishermen for willing to make legitimate progress, Tolentino said.

"In the longer term," Johns said, "We need to make the pie bigger. If the fighting is over dwindling resources, maybe we ought to be increasing the biomass in the ocean through aquaculture and artificial reefs."

Fishermen taught scientists including Weng that some of the fisheries are healthy, like the akule. The akule fishery is ancient and has been an important food source since the early days of Hawaiian culture.

Fishermen also learned that scientists from the Oceanic Institute have been pouring baby moi, or Pacific threadfin, into two places on the Windward side to raise the stock since 1997.

"That's just the kind of thing we need," said fisherman David Auwae. "It's enlightening us local people on restocking. Anything to help out fishermen. We don't want to be limited on what we're taking. But because we're an island, we're limited here."

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