Friday, May 4, 2001

Fishy business is
rampant in Hawaii

SOMETHING FISHY is going on at Hawaii restaurants, making executive chefs and customers happy.

United Fishing Agency is also smiling, now that its auction -- Oahu's only commercial fish auction -- is back in full swing.

It had been disrupted by a federal court-imposed ban on Hawaii-based longline fishing during the last two weeks of March. A new ruling allowed longliners to return to fishing grounds in early April.

"We're relieved that the court has found some middle ground that didn't mean the whole fishing and restaurant industries would go down the tubes," said Hawaii Restaurant Association President Patrick McCain. "We're relieved we're going to be able to have fresh fish."

Troy Terorotua, corporate chef for Let's Eat Hawaii and executive chef at Sam Choy's Breakfast Lunch and Crab, thought it unfair that while Hawaii longliners were barred from fruitful fishing areas, international vessels continued fishing without restriction.

"Pretty much once they closed down the auction block everybody had to import," Terorotua said.

Fish companies have other sources, he said, because if the fish supply "dries up here, or the weather gets bad, they have to have a contingency plan." Some of those plans included importing fish from other islands, Terorotua said, neighbor islands, as well as Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.

That also translated to higher prices for restaurants and diners.

"Now, everything's kind of falling back into place," Terorotua said, "We're glad to see the fishermen are able to go back out. We like to keep business with the local purveyors, local fishermen."

Alan Wong, owner and executive chef of two self-named restaurants and the Pineapple Room at Liberty House Ala Moana, said he did not have any problems during the longline fishing ban, but that there were slightly higher prices.

Wong hopes the matter is settled for the sake of tourism.

"Forty-five dollars for one mahimahi entree, that's not cool, eh?" he said. "It turns people off from coming back to Hawaii.

"Either that, or the restaurant is not going to be able to serve local fresh fish."

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached

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