Plan offers biggerA state proposal to increase the minimum size allowed for several marine fish is being introduced to Hawaii fishermen with a series of meetings this month.
fish to fry
Some fishermen agree
increasing minimum sizes
would help reverse declines
By Diana Leone
The changes recommended by the Department of Land and Natural Resources are meant to help reverse recent declines in fish populations.
The biggest changes proposed are bigger minimum size limits for kumu, kala, opelu kala, amaama (striped mullet), moi, oio, ulua and papio.
"The meetings are a way for us to present these ideas to the public," said Alton Miyasaka, a department aquatic biologist. "We would like them to tell us how these rule changes might affect them or what they feel about it -- any problems they see with it, any good things they like about it."
Meetings already have been held on Lanai, Molokai and Maui. They will continue next week on the Big Island and the following two weeks on Oahu and Kauai.
"Current regulations were established many years ago," Miyasaka said. "Current scientific information available suggests that for a number of the species, (DLNR's current) minimum size is too small. The sizes we are recommending are the sizes at which the fish become sexually mature. So the idea is, you allow them to spawn at least once before they're captured."
The concept met with general approval from most fishermen at Heeia Kea Boat Harbor yesterday.
"Some of these I would agree," said spear-fisherman Craig Pratt as he reviewed a list of the proposed changes. But he questioned whether the new size limits should be even larger for kumu and uhu.
"A 1-pound (12-inch) uhu is still too small," he said. "I don't think they spawn until they're about 3 pounds."
"What we need is a little common sense," said Fred Toribio. "It's kind of late to do anything, but something is better than nothing."
Recreational fisherwoman Rinnie Goings supports the bigger size limits. She said her family "mostly goes out for the kids" and often does not catch anything. They throw back any papio they catch that are too small.
Commercial net fisherman Louis Watson said he is not convinced bigger size limits would solve the problem -- and he is concerned he would have to buy nets with larger mesh.
Watson, who counts his fisherman lineage back to "the days of Captain Cook," said he fishes responsibly and only takes what he needs. He thinks scuba divers with nets who gather hundreds of pounds of fish a day are among the culprits for declining fish supplies.
"People who dive and surround fish on the bottom are forcing the system," Watson said. "There's supply and demand -- and there's too much demand."
Meetings on proposed increased minimumsHere are the remaining state Department of Land and Natural Resources informational meetings about proposed fish size limits. All meetings are at 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday: Konawaena Elementary School Cafeteria, South Kona
Wednesday: Thelma Parker Library, Kamuela
Thursday: Hilo High School Cafeteria, Hilo
Tuesday, Aug. 21: Waianae Public Library
Thursday, Aug. 23: Stephenson Middle School Cafeteria, Honolulu
Tuesday, Aug. 28: Heeia State Park, Kaneohe
Thursday, Aug. 30: Wilcox Elementary School Cafeteria, Lihue
For more information, call the DLNR's Division of Aquatic Resources: Oahu, 587-0100; Hilo, 974-6201; Kona, 327-6226; Lihue, 274-3344; Maui, 243-5294; and Molokai, 567-6696.