Use Hawaiian knowledge to repopulate fish stocks
THIS latest proposal of more fishing regulations by the Department of Land and Natural Resources is a good idea gone astray. Already there exists sufficient law to protect the reef resources. What does not exist is sufficient enforcement officers.
People fish 24 hours a day, every day. Enforcement must be available 24 hours a day for the rules, regulations and laws to work. Every island must have contact numbers other than 911 to report any potential violations. Reporting violations is a waste of time and effort on Kauai because you have to call Honolulu to report violations in progress. It can take several hours for a response. The violators are long gone before any responding officer arrives.
These additional regulations, while well intended, will do nothing to solve the problem. The decline in our near-shore fish populations will continue in spite of these proposals. What needs to be done is to increase the numbers of fish. Nothing DLNR has done or is doing has increased the fish populations anywhere. Why are no efforts being put into establishing the techniques that would do this?
I have been to many public hearings, informational meetings and private meetings regarding the use of nets. I have heard many proposals. I have been witness to closures of specific areas as an effort to increase fish populations. None of them work. What ends up happening is a small area becomes overpopulated by fish, which in turn deplete the food resources in that area -- and the decline continues.
At none of these meetings were any discussions given to any positive efforts of repopulating declining fish species. Many scientific efforts are put into this idea, but none are successful for all fish. There is a proven system that can rebuild the food fish population and increase shoreline populations. Since scientists apparently haven't studied this system, it is widely ignored by the people whose task it is to improve the shoreline fish populations.
What have been proved to work are the Hawaiian fishponds, which have been used for centuries. Their use creates safe havens for the smaller fish to grow in, and when the fish reach a certain size, they migrate from the ponds into the shoreline and reef habitats. When the ponds are properly maintained and used, breeder stock will remain within them, continuously spawning and providing young to replace the mature population that is harvested off the reef.
Since the state owns the shoreline, it should pose no difficulty in allowing the constructing of these ponds across Hawaii. It is on Molokai, where folks have restored several ponds, that the knowledge of construction will be found. There are others who know how this works on other islands, too. While many of the old ponds have been lost to negligence and nature, their outlines still are visible in the shallow shoreline areas.
The use of fishponds is a major part of island culture. To see what is possible across the state, just look at the sites of fishponds today. Now imagine them being cleaned, repaired and operated.
What's wrong with the manao of our kupuna? Why aren't we using this proven technique? Don't tell me we need to do a study. The knowledge exists. Let's use it today ... all for an abundant tomorrow.
Sharon Pomroy lives in Anahola, Kauai.