Seasonal ban on Deep 7 fish

The decision to seasonally close state and federal waters surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands to protect deepwater bottomfish species reportedly spurred a “resigned acceptance” among impacted Kaua‘i fishermen.

After gaining public input for several months, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council on Wednesday unanimously approved several measures to end overfishing of the “Deep 7”: onaga, ehu, gindai, opakapaka, kalekale, lehi and hapuupuu.

“If it gets to that level called ‘overfished,’ then there’s a complete shutdown of fishing mandated by federal law. We don’t want to go there,” Council Vice Chairman Ed Ebisui said Friday. “Fishermen say, ‘Yeah, we got to do something.’ So they’re willing to bite the bullet.”

The measures include:

• A total allowable catch for commercial fishermen of 178,000 pounds.

• A four-month seasonal closure, requiring federal permits for all recreational bottomfish fishermen

• Requiring commercial and recreational bottomfish fishermen to report their catch on a per trip basis with fishing locations reported by longitude and latitude to the nearest minute.

• Bag limits for recreational bottomfish fishermen.

The changes are scheduled to be phased in starting Oct. 1, when the fishery reopens following a five-month prohibition against harvesting the Deep 7.

With state and federal cooperation, the main Hawaiian Islands waters next year will be closed to fishing Deep 7 species from May 1 to Aug. 30.

Because bottomfishing can occur up to 30 miles or more offshore, Hawai‘i Division of Aquatic Resources Program Manager Francis Oishi said the regulations would apply to state waters zero to three miles from shore and federal waters three to 200 miles from shore.

“The fish don’t know where the state boundary ends and the federal one begins. It makes sense (to regulate state and federal waters) for the benefit of the resource and the fishing public so there’s no confusion of what laws they need to follow,” Oishi said.

The goal is to reduce fishing-related mortality of main Hawaiian Islands bottomfish by 24 percent, according to the council.

The National Marine Fisheries Service determined the local stock was at risk, but the scientists could not pinpoint overfishing to a particular spot, Oishi said.

Kaua‘i fishermen claimed their resources were fine and questioned why they should be part of a blanket regulation, he added.

“The issue became, ‘How do you begin to piecemeal out the restrictions as it relates to overfishing in one area and it being sustainable in another?’” Oishi said, adding that fishermen travel to neighboring islands.

Ultimately, council members said they determined an across-the-board regulation would be fairest and achieve their aim most effectively.

The effect on local fishing economies remains uncertain, but the council took steps to cause the least impact by implementing the prohibition during summer months, according to council members.

The peak Deep 7 fishing season is November to January, Oishi said.

The council consists of members representing American Samoa, Guam, Hawai‘i and CNMI appointed by the Secretary of Commerce.

State officials include representatives from the departments of Marine and Wildlife Resources and Land and Natural Resources. Members also come from the National Marine Fisheries Service Regional Administrator, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and U.S. Coast Guard 14th District.

For more information, visit or call the council at 522-8220.


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