Fishers can now file catch reports online
Holders of the 2,500 commercial fishing licenses issued by the State of Hawai'i may now file their monthly "catch reports" via computer.
The online system was put into operation during the third week of February and is designed to save commercial fishers time and effort while boosting participation in the mandatory reporting program.
Reginald Kokubun, a statistician with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources, said the online catch reporting program was the outgrowth of a change in regulations under which license holders could face civil fines or denial of license renewal if they fail to comply with monthly catch reporting requirements.
Commercial fishers told state officials if the failure-to-report penalties were being made tougher, filing the catch reports should be made easier, Kokubun said.
"Online filing is a tool that facilitates the collection of fishing reports, which provide invaluable data for both state and federal government agencies that manage fisheries in Hawaiian waters," DLNR Chairwoman Laura H. Thielen said in a news release.
Fishers with a valid commercial marine license issued by DLNR will be able to submit online reports.
Kokubun said DLNR has been collecting catch reports from commercial fishers in Hawai'i since 1948.
Commercial licensees are required to report their catches each month on every trip they make, he said, and must also report if they did not catch anything or did not go fishing during the month.
Stiffer penalties for those who fail to file catch reports has resulted in a compliance rate of about 75 percent, Kokubun said.
Commercial fishers are required to file the catch reports by the 10th day of the following month or risk civil fines or denial of having their license renewed.
In addition to requiring license holders to report their catch, the state also mandates that an estimated 250 "primary seafood buyers" such as supermarkets, wholesalers, exporters and the like keep records of from whom they are buying fish.
Fishers are required to have a valid commercial license to sell to a primary buyer, Kokubun said.
DNLR officials said the online catch report system will also allow commercial fishers to print a copy of the monthly report for the fisher's business records, to download the catch record onto their favorite software so they can analyze their own fishing performance and will provide a link to allow for online commercial license renewal.
The online catch reporting system is also expected to largely eliminate monthly mailing costs for fishers and printing costs for the DLNR which, in the past, printed and distributed booklets containing the monthly catch report forms.
Brooks Takenaka, assistant general manager of the United Fishing Agency, which helps fishers sell their catch via a daily auction at Pier 38 in Kalihi, said the online program will mean "less paperwork for the fishers and a more green environment."
How many more fishers will comply with the monthly catch-reporting requirements, "is another thing," Takenaka said.
"Whether the online reporting is beneficial or advantageous remains to be seen," Takenaka said. "It does provide for more opportunity to regulate the situation. Whether it works or not, it's another way to tighten things up, so we'll see if it works."