Thursday, June 24, 2004

Recreational fishermen
criticize license plan

Many do not want
to pay to fish in the sea

Peter Mainaaupo says he won't pay to fish, which he considers part of his native Hawaiian culture.

"We know how to manage our resources," Mainaaupo said. "We know what to do."

More than 150 residents attended a National Marine Fisheries Service meeting last night that dealt partly with whether recreational anglers in coastal states should be required to obtain saltwater fishing licenses.

And many agreed with Mainaaupo, saying they do not want a fee tagged on to an activity they have been doing for free for years.

"It's a terrible idea for an island state," said Chuck Johnston, a recreational fisher and editor and publisher of Hawaii Fishing News. "It's not like the mainland, where they have others places to go besides the shorelines. In Hawaii the families of Hawaii have only one place to go."

The forum at the Ala Moana Hotel was the sixth of its kind in the nation as National Marine Fisheries personnel travel across the country to gather comments on their 15-page Recreational Fisheries Strategic Plan for 2004 to 2009, which is expected to be finalized by September and released in October.

As part of the plan, federal officials are proposing national implementation of a license for recreational fishers in hopes of better management of the nation's fishing areas.

Fisheries Service Director Bill Hogarth said the permit would allow the government to get a better count of the ocean's fish.

Hawaii is one of three coastal states that does not require recreational saltwater fishing licenses, he said. New Jersey and North Carolina are the others.

"A lot of people feel it's their last freedom," Hogarth said. "But the purpose (of the license) is simply to get better data on the recreational fishery. The important thing that a licensure program gets is data on the health of the stock."

Hogarth also said that if the federal government oversees the program, licenses would likely cost $25 to $30. State-run licensing would probably charge $15 a permit, he said.

Michael Kelly, fisheries division chief for constituent affairs, said the proposal is still in its preliminary stages. He said the earliest anglers could see a recreational licensure program would be in two to three years.

"We're still pretty early," he said. "It's vital that we start the discussion early."

According to Fisheries Service data, Hawaii's commercial fishermen brought in about 25 million pounds of fish in 2002. Recreational fishers landed an estimated 13 million pounds.

At yesterday's meeting in the Ala Moana Hotel, Johnston wore a shirt that read, "Fight for the right to fish." He said that Hawaii's anglers would not go along with a program that made them pay to do something they have been doing for free for so long.

"People aren't going to become accountants for the government," he said.

Another meeting on the fisheries' strategic plan is planned for October. Officials are also hoping to hold meetings on the neighbor islands, Hogarth said.

National Marine Fisheries Service


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