Bottom fish eschewed on chain of menus
Isle restaurants opt not to buy the banned species elsewhere
The owners of at least nine island restaurants have removed from their menus the bottom fish currently banned from being fished in Hawaiian waters, choosing not to bring them in from elsewhere in the Pacific Ocean.
TS Restaurants, which owns Duke's Waikiki and six other island establishments, and Hawaii chef Peter Merriman, who owns two Big Island eateries, have taken the tasty and popular fish off their rotating menus to protect the sustainability of the overfished species, said Richard Moon, TS Restaurants' vice president.
"We want to help decrease the year-round demand for these slow-growing fish," Moon said. "We don't want to just shift demand to other areas. We think our customers will realize this is the right thing to do."
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources banned commercial and recreational fishing from next Tuesday through September for onaga, ehu, gindai, opakapaka, kalekale, lehi and hapuupuu found in the main Hawaiian islands.
Other restaurants have said they will get the fish from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, where limited bottom-fishing in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is still allowed, or import the fish from other countries.
TS Restaurants buys 400 pounds of bottom fish a week, Moon said. The restaurants will instead feature ono, mahimahi, ahi and monchong.
"We've sold a lot of bottom fish and made a nice reputation for that," he said. "But we've changed the thinking of the company. When things are in danger, we need to pay attention."
The state and the Western Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Council were alerted by the National Marine Fisheries Service in May 2005 that overfishing of the bottom-fish species complex was occurring in the main Hawaiian islands.
The state chose to implement the ban in summer because fishermen are often focusing on other species, and these bottom fish are less popular during this period, said Alton Miyasaka, a state aquatic biologist. A similar closure is expected to be needed for the summer of 2008, officials have said.
About 612,000 pounds of bottom fish were fished in the Northwestern and main Hawaiian islands in 2004. A majority of the catch was made in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands by a small group of fishing boats.
Merriman, who owns Merriman's Waimea and Merriman's Market Cafe, said removing the fish was thoughtful and fits into his goal to offer local and organic products at his restaurants.
TS Restaurants owns the Hula Grill Waikiki and Duke's Waikiki on Oahu; Kimo's, Hula Grill Kaanapali and Leilani's on the Beach on Maui; and Duke's Kauai and Keoki's Paradise on Kauai. The company also owns two California restaurants that also plan to remove the fish from menus.