Fish hatchery to shut down


POSTED: Monday, June 22, 2009

Angling for catfish at the Nuuanu Reservoir, a favorite family outing for decades on Oahu, could become just a fond memory after the state stops restocking the popular fishing hole in July as a result of critical budget cuts.

Some are troubled that few fish will be biting at Nuuanu—and at the Kokee trout reservoir in Kauai—once the state hatchery/restocking programs end.

“;Shutting down the hatchery will be a disaster for those who love to fish,”; said Mike Tsukamoto, a former islander who returns yearly to Nuuanu, where he's been catfishing since his high school days.

Laura Thielen, director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, confirmed, “;We're not sure the natural reproductive rates will (keep the population) at the level we're used to,”; but the state's highest priority is to focus on its “;core mission of managing and protecting its resources.”; Nothing is definite, but “;it is possible that more than just the hatchery will be mothballed,”; Thielen said. “;We're still sorting things out.”;

In view of the current fiscal crisis, funds for the hatchery programs have to be redirected to fund seriously needed conservation measures, she said. For example, the department plans to raise sea urchins and other omnivorous fish that consume invasive algae that harms the reefs, she said.

It costs the state $121,600, in addition to matching federal funds, to operate the Anuenue Fisheries Research Center off Sand Island Parkway, where the hatchery and other aquaculture programs are managed by the Division of Aquatic Resources, she said. The DLNR is working on acquiring federal grants and forming partnerships with the Oceanic Institute and private fisheries to continue the hatchery programs elsewhere, Thielen added.

Knud Lindgard, who has written the “;Freshwater Bank Fishing”; column for Hawaii Fishing News and volunteers at Nuuanu, said closing the hatchery would have a minimal impact.

“;The catfish are not going to be depleted. There are 10,000 fish in there—tons. It is possible to populate fish naturally ... they're easy to breed. In the next two or three years, there will be no impact. But after that if they (the state) insist on requiring licenses, they are morally obligated to provide fish,”; he said.

About 10,000 people per year go catfishing in Nuuanu, while about 2,000 fish for trout on Kauai each year, according to Dennis Shinno of the Anuenue Fisheries Research Center.

Lindgard said the two-fish limit and the average 50 percent catch rate of fishermen should prevent a severe depletion of catfish. And most of the anglers just catch the fish for fun and release them, Lindgard added.

Glenn Ikemoto of Kauai, author of “;The Kauai Guide to Freshwater Sport Fishing,”; said, “;It looks like this year will be the last year we'll be having a complete trout season for who knows how long.”;

“;Within three or four years (the lifespan of the trout), all the existing trout will die off, and there will be no more trout to be caught. After almost 90 years, since 1920, the history of rainbow trout at Kokee will come to an end,”; he said.

Jason “;Brock”; Brockington, a vice president of the Hawaii Freshwater Fishing Association, has been flying to Kauai for 10 to 15 years for a few days trout fishing,

“;I look forward to that,”; he said. “;That's my vacation.”;

When the trout population is depleted, he added, “;It will really hurt, but what can I do?”;