Hawai'i's new gill net rules not good enough
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Given the new rigorous set of gill net regulations, it's hard to understand why the state didn't just ban them.
Indeed, numerous reports on gill net fishing expose an indiscriminate and wasteful practice that catches everything from protected fish species to Hawaiian monk seals. Considering our declining nearshore marine resources, local fish scientists rightly argue that the problem must be dealt with immediately.
Yet after 10 years of studying the issue, which involved a task force, state agencies and community meetings, the end result appears to be a confusing set of rules that make gill fishing both illegal and legal based on where you are.
On Maui, gill net fishing is banned. But it's not banned on Moloka'i, Lana'i, Kaua'i or Ni'ihau. Those islands allow gill net fishing for a half-hour only, but during the day when no experienced gill net fisherman would be out anyway. Along with a restriction on night use, it is practically a de facto ban on gill net fishing.
On O'ahu, gill nets are banned only in select areas from Portlock Point to Keahi Point; from Mokapu Peninsula to the northern end of Bellows Air Force Base; and in Kane-'ohe Bay between ship channels, including Ahu O Laka.
Peter Young, the head of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, said the task force evaluated all public testimony and felt a ban "wasn't appropriate right now." Young feels that a partial ban is a balanced approach that quickly protects our marine resources without affecting a significant number of fishermen. The new rules come with stiff fines up to $3,000 for violations, and if Maui's fish stock increases because of the ban there, it may encourage a statewide ban in the future.
That's good — but not good enough. With our reef fish population already in serious decline, it's time to stop stalling and impose a ban.