COURTESY PHOTO / JULY 2006
This Hawaiian monk seal pup, pictured as a newborn at Turtle Bay, was found tangled in a gill net near Waimanalo last month. The pup's death has prompted a call for regulation.
Gill nets catch flak after seal death
The pup's demise is cited as another reason for regulation
The recent death of an endangered Hawaiian monk seal pup provides evidence to support the state's push to regulate gill net fishing and debunks arguments that larger animals can escape them, a state Department of Land and Natural Resources official says.
The 5-month-old seal was found tangled in a gill net near Waimanalo last month along with a small white tip shark and other fish.
"This really reinforces the idea that gill nets can be destructive and can kill endangered species," said Peter Young, department director.
The updated proposed restrictions could be presented to the Board of Land and Natural Resources as early as its November or December meetings.
The department is still working to update its ideas to incorporate comments from the public, Young said.
STAR-BULLETIN / FEBRUARY 1997
Officers from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, at right, hold up some of the 600 feet of illegal gill net found with fish in it off Waikiki. More proposed restrictions could be presented by the end of the year.
The Land Board will give the public another opportunity to comment, and, if approved, the measure would be sent to the Attorney General's Office for a final review.
Some native Hawaiians have argued gill net fishing is a traditional practice and an important source of food. But others said it depletes fish stocks and that turtles, the monk seals and other species get caught in nets that can stretch across hundreds or even thousands of feet in the ocean.
The department wants to ban fishing with gill nets off Maui, the west side of the Big Island and parts of Oahu.
In areas where gill net fishing would be allowed, the department wants fishermen to use nets less than 125 feet long and to make sure they don't leave the nets unattended for more than 30 minutes.
Coastal fishing populations have rebounded off Fiji after the island nation recently banned gill net fishing, Young said.
Opponents say the rules would interfere with native Hawaiian cultural practices while doing little to save the fish they are intended to preserve.
Last month's monk seal death shows one of the department's concerns with the fishing practice, Young said.
Each birth among the endangered Hawaiian monk seal is seen as critical for their continued existence. And new pups are closely monitored by volunteers and wildlife officials.
Numbering just about 1,200, the seals continue to struggle for survival, despite efforts to protect their main habitat in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.