Fishing rule changes take effect tomorrow

Starting tomorrow, fishers who think they’re pretty good at “guess-timating” whether their catches meet minimize size limits had better take a closer look.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources will implement a number of fishing regulations changes on Dec. 19. Most of the changes increase the minimum size for a number of regulated species but the new rules also change the way fish are measured to see if they size up.

The new minimum size for ‘ama’ama (striped mullet) and moi will be up four inches from seven to 11 inches. ‘O’io and kala size limits will be 14 inches (up 5″ from 9 inches). Uhu must be 1 pound (a change from 12 inches) while ulua and papio must be 10 inches long (up from 7) for home consumption or 16 inches long (up from 1 pound) for sale. Kumu’s new minimum size is 10 inches (up from 7) while ‘opelu kala is now 16 inches (up from 9).

The new rules also change the way fish are measured. Fishers must now measure a fish’s fork length, which is the distance from the snout to the fork of the caudal (tail) fin. Previously, minimum sizes applied to a fish’s total length, the distance from the snout to the end of the tail. So even regulated species for which there are no changes in minimum size will still need to be slightly larger due to the change in measuring technique.

In addition, the closed season for striped mullet has been extended one month, from December through March.

The new rules specify for most regulated species exactly which species are affected, Previously only common names were included in most fishing regulations, which often led to confusion.

“The rule changes were introduced because many of the previous reguations did not have any biological basis, explained William Devick, administrator of DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR). “Minimum sizes were increased, for example, based on size at sexual maturity. For these popular shoreline fish, we want to give them a chance to reproduce at least once before they are consumed. This measure should help to rebuild their populations,”

The new rules had undergone deliberation within DLNR for a couple of years, then were presented to the public in a series of statewide public meetings and hearings.

The rule changes represent the first step in an overhaul of fisheries regulations as part of a comprehensive plan being developed by DAR. Further changes under consideration will include adding a few species not currently regulated, changing some bag limits, and maximum sizes for some species and additional closed seasons.

Declining nearshore fish populations are the result of a number of causes, including pollution, habitat degradation, and other human impacts, aquatic officials say. Overfishing alone is not to blame, but is part of the problem. DAR officials say the goal of their regulatory efforts is to increase populations of nearshore fish and other marine resources.

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