New rules help ensure that we will have fish in the future
A state board has approved restrictions on lay gillnet fishing.
RESTRICTIONS on a fishing method that indiscriminately kills marine life will help to protect Hawaii's ocean ecosystem at a time when research and studies show that curbs are increasingly crucial to healthy fish stock and coral reefs.
The state Board of Land and Natural Resources' approval of the lay gillnet limitations should be followed quickly by authorization from the attorney general and Gov. Linda Lingle.
In addition, the administration and lawmakers should draw up proposals for the legislative session next year to fund more conservation officers so that the new regulations can be properly enforced. Without enforcement, the restrictions will be meaningless.
The rules ban lay gillnets from waters around Maui and off Windward and East Oahu areas, adding to existing no-fish zones off West Hawaii. In areas the nets can be used, the rules set a four-hour maximum time limit and require nets be checked every 30 minutes to avoid snagging unwanted or protected marine life. Lay gillnets of requisite sizes also must have owner identification tags to aid in enforcement. Nets left untended can be confiscated.
The regulations became necessary after the introduction of cheaply manufactured monofilament lay gillnets that spurred a destructive force not seen when nets made by hand were valued possessions. Irresponsible fishers stretched their nets over wide areas and left them for long periods of time. The nets trapped everything that swam into them, killing desirable and unwanted sea life indiscriminately. Moreover, the nets often were abandoned, damaging coral reefs and entangling endangered species like the young monk seal found dead off Waimanalo last month, wrapped in a gillnet.
The restrictions were supported by a majority of residents, fishers and Hawaiians, according to an independent poll conducted during the summer. More and more, people are recognizing that the species the ocean holds are finite and need protection. California will institute next year the first of a chain of refuges along its coastlines, banning fishing in 200 square miles from Half Moon Bay to Santa Barbara.
Some in the commercial and recreational fishing industries aren't pleased, and some Hawaiian groups have objected to limits, saying they take food off the tables of subsistence fishers. However, the rules don't bar them from fishing responsibly; in fact, those who fish for food should welcome practices that are more likely to ensure that they will have fish to catch in the years to come.
The restrictions are the culmination of months of public hearings and years of debate and study. They respect a traditional method of fishing in Hawaii while safeguarding the marine environment.
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