Some area residents in Olowalu, Maui, are upset that some gill-net fishermen are killing and leaving behind less-desirable fish, like the nine baby blacktip reef sharks shown here.

Wasteful practice of
gill-netters denounced
by Maui residents

By Gary T. Kubota

WAILUKU >> Some Valley Isle residents say they are upset about gill-net fishermen killing and throwing away baby blacktip reef sharks and other less-desirable fish off Hekili Point at Olowalu in West Maui.

Olowalu resident Norman Nelson said that around this time of year, fishermen haul in the gill-net catch, take the good-eating fish and abandon the others on the beach, including baby sharks.

Nelson said that about five days ago, he came across nine baby blacktip sharks left on the beach.

"The gill nets are really lethal," Nelson said.

Native Hawaiian Kahu Charles Maxwell said the "wasteful practice" was not in keeping with Hawaiian culture and its respect for ocean life, including sharks, which are regarded by Hawaiians as guardians or aumakua.

Nelson said the Olowalu area has a shallow shelf where there are many newborn fish and he is not sure if the gill nets were in the water beyond the four hours allowed by state law.

The law also requires fishermen to check their nets every two hours, so they can release undesirable or threatened species from the nets.

State officials said gill nets are required to have a minimum mesh stretch between knots of 2 34 inches. The offense is a petty misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail.

State enforcement official Randy Awo said enforcing the gill-net law was difficult because of the limited number of enforcement officers on Maui, but he added that people have been convicted of gill-net violations.

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