Proposal to ban lay gill nets on the way
The state will solicit feedback from the public on the idea
WAILUKU » State Board of Land and Natural Resources Director Peter Young said his department plans to propose a ban on the use of lay gill nets on Maui and parts of Oahu, in light of public worries about decreasing fish stock.
Young said the proposed ban, still being drafted by department officials, would apply only to lay gill nets and not throw nets, akule nets, and surround nets.
"We're still working on it, and part of what we're looking for is feedback," he said.
A similar ban was imposed earlier this year along parts of West Hawaii waters.
Some critics want a complete ban on lay gill net fishing in the state because it can indiscriminately entangle not only fish, but also protected species such as monk seals and turtles.
"It's wasteful. They're catching fish that they don't want. They're throwing them away," veterinarian Dr. Diane Shepherd said.
Shepherd said a number of states have banned the use of lay gill nets, including Florida.
Lay gill nets are curtainlike nets suspended in coastal waters with mesh openings large enough to permit only the heads of fish to pass through, ensnaring them by the gills.
Young said he plans to present ideas for the proposed ban before the state Land Board in January.
The proposals follow public meetings on Maui and Oahu, where many people supported a ban on lay gill nets after noticing a continued decrease in reef fish, he said.
Young said the use of lay gill nets is not the only reason for a decrease in fish, and there are other factors, including runoff pollution, alien species and the weather.
"We don't want people to think this is the thing. It is a tool that we think is appropriate," he said.
Young said the proposed areas for the ban include from Koko Head through Waikiki to the reef runway, Kailua Bay, and reef patches in Kaneohe Bay.
The proposed ban would not include fringe reefs or barrier reefs in Kaneohe Bay, he said.
Young said while the department received a lot of comments to close Kaneohe Bay completely to lay gill net fishing, it also heard from many people who opposed the ban.
Young's department has been criticized in East Maui for lacking the patrolling staff to enforce existing fishing rules.
Young said the department's proposed budget to be announced in mid-December will "significantly" deal with enforcement as a priority.
He said the department is also working with the Nature Conservancy and Hawaii Wildlife Fund to establish an ocean watch program, similar to community watch programs.
In West Hawaii, lay gill net fishing is allowed in certain areas for a maximum of four hours, and a fishing person cannot use a lay gill net twice within a 24-hour period.