Gill net regulations - Blind Bans Bluff The proposed gill...

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Blind Ban’s Bluff The proposed gill net regulations beg the question: Are there still a lot of fish in the sea? by Catharine Lo / 08-02-2006 /wp-content/080260gillnet.jpg /wp- content/080260gillnet.jpg The debate over the new gill net regulations proposed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has stirred up passionate testimony at recent public hearings across the state. To generalize, environmentalists plead, “Save the turtles!” Fishermen plead, “Don’t lock our icebox!” Fishery managers plead, “Catch what you need, not what you can.” Gill nets, also known as lay nets and mo‘emo‘e nets, are typically set in inshore waters like a curtain held open by floaters and weights, ensnaring marine life that swim into it. Supporters of greater restrictions (see sidebar), including a ban on gill nets in the waters around Maui, and parts of O‘ahu, say gill nets deplete nearshore fish populations, threaten endangered species and destroy coral reefs. Opponents say a ban would hurt subsistence fishermen, choke tradition and won’t help restore diminishing fish populations. They are all somewhat right, and they are all somewhat wrong. Ultimately, the DLNR doesn’t know how much of an impact the nets are making because they don’t know how many fish are in the sea. The only numbers they record are how many and what kind of fish the nets catch—and those numbers include only what’s reported by commercial netters. Is it better to be safe than sorry? Without knowing how many fish there are, it’s hard to assess whether the gill net fishery is a threat. The proposed regulation relies on speculation and opinion, and someone’s best guess is neither a sound nor permanent foundation for effective resource management. One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish Who’s counting? The Division of Aquatic Resources records the total number of commercial fishermen who cite gill nets as their primary gear (46 in 2005) and their total landings by species listed on commercial catch reports (a total of 193,298 pounds in 2005). No data is available for the number of recreational/subsistence fishermen or how much they catch. So we know the least number of fish being caught by gill net is around 194,000 pounds. Subtract the total pound of akule caught (129,886)—akule fishermen use a surround net
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technique that is not subject to the proposed restrictions—and you have about 63,000 pounds of fish caught by commercial gill net fishers. Francis Oishi, recreational fishing program manager at the DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) explains that the lack of data exists because the nearshore fisheries don’t bring in the dollars that high-value commercial species like Alaskan king crab or Pacific Northwest salmon do. The sustainability of those fisheries has been studied— spawning potential ratios, yield per recruit, rates of harvest, etc.—and when fishing approaches a critical point, a cease-fishing notice goes out. But the 3,000 pounds of weke
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Gill net regulations - Blind Bans Bluff The proposed gill...

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