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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 18, 2006

It's time to weigh in on fisheries proposal


Public hearings on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on bottomfish management:

  • Maui 7-9 tonight, Maui Beach Hotel Elleaire Rainbow Room, Kahului.

  • Kaua'i 7-9 p.m., Monday, Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School cafeteria, Lihu'e.

  • O'ahu 7-9 p.m., next Thursday, Ala Moana Hotel Carnation Room.

    The document can be downloaded from the Web at: http://swr.nmfs.noaa.gov/pir/

    Comments, due May 30, can be sent by e-mail to PIRBottomfishDSEIS@noaa.gov (subject line: Bottomfish Overfishing DSEIS). Phone 944-2276.

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    Hawai'i's fisheries are a treasured resource, and a great deal of thought is being put into how we can care for them.

    The latest opportunity for the public to speak up has arrived, in the form of public hearings on a federal plan for ending the depletion of bottomfish stocks (see box). These include snappers, groupers and jacks, but the popular names of the fish of greatest concern are the onaga, 'ehu, gindai, kalekale, hapu'upu'u, 'opakapaka and lehi.

    The National Marine Fisheries Service's Pacific Islands Regional Office has drawn up a plan with a range of proposed actions for managing the fishery in federal waters farther offshore (nearshore waters come under the control of the state). Its preferred action is to close two areas to fishing until populations of the fish recover adequately: Penguin Bank, off Moloka'i, and Middle Bank, off Kaua'i.

    This sounds like a rational plan, even if for a time market supplies of these popular fish are curtailed. Other regions of the Pacific have seen fisheries pushed to the point of complete depletion, which is an end result we must avoid here at all costs.

    At the same time, the state is proposing its own set of closed areas nearer the main islands, a prospect that drove many worried people in the fisheries industry to informational briefings earlier this year. The state should consider sensible suggestions that make allowances for recreational fishing, while not endangering the recovery of the stock.

    Meanwhile, the federal Magnuson-Stevens Act is being reauthorized by Congress. So far, the version favored by the Senate comes closest to properly weighing scientific evidence in fisheries management.

    The same caution should apply here, as resource-management agencies contemplate how to preserve and grow our fisheries for future generations.