Fishery council asks anglers for info

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Mark Fitchett and Ed Watamura of Wespac Fisheries Management Council listen to comments being made Tuesday during the scoping meeting for the potential amendment to the Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Puhi.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Joshua DeMello of the Wespac Fisheries Management Council explains the need for good data Tuesday during a scoping meeting held at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Puhi.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Ed Watamura of Honolulu, a voting member of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, listens to the presentation Tuesday during the scoping meeting for the potential amendment to the Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan, at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Puhi.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Molly Lutcavage of the Kaua‘i Ahi Co-op Research Program uses a computer to discuss results of the ahi tagging project Tuesday during the scoping meeting hosted by the Wespac Fisheries Management Council at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Puhi.

PUHI — Saturday is the final day fishermen are able to provide comments — the term used at the meeting was “data” — from those who were not available to take in the Hawai‘i Pelagic Small-boat Fisheries Public Scoping Meeting on Tuesday.

“More and better data leads to better management,” said Ed Watamura, a voting member of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council that hosted the meeting at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School.

“The lack of data can adversely affect small-boat fishermen. We’re not here to make things harder. Fishermen come up with brilliant ideas,” said Watamura.

WPRFMC held meetings on O‘ahu, Hawai‘i island, Maui and Kaua‘i, asking fishermen to weigh in on questions about how to collect and catalogue data, protected species and the lack of data available on fisheries. The fishery council is also asking small-boat fishermen to let them know what other information they want made available about Hawai‘i small-boat fisheries.

Answers — or, “data” — collected from the meeting on Kaua‘i will be added to information already gathered in meetings on other islands, and will be used to inform a potential amendment to the Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan, and used to make recommendations to the U.S. Department of Commerce that governs the pelagic, small-boat fisheries.

Data summary is also sent via email to fishermen. Approximately 50 who were in attendance at the Kaua‘i meetings.

Target fishermen include anglers from boats and those who go after tuna, mahimahi, ono or uku.

It’s not too late to for fishermen to provide their perspectives. Anglers have until Saturday to submit comments.

“The more we know, the better decisions we can make,” Watamura said. “We don’t want to just ‘do it.’ We want the fishermen’s conversations.”

The Hawai‘i pelagic small-boat fleet is described by the WPRFMC as a mixed-gear fishery that is complex and comprised of diverse fishing activities and motivations. It describes the fishery typically meaning vessels under 40 feet, and includes commercial and non-commercial boaters, including recreational, subsistence, artisanal, sustenance and other sectors.

These fisheries support small-scale fishing businesses and local seafood production, and are important in the continuation of traditional fishing practices in Hawai‘i.

Pelagic fisheries include a deep-set component that targets bigeye tuna, and a shallow-set component that targets swordfish. Other species involved include yellowfin tuna, blue marlin, mahimahi, striped marlin, wahoo (ono), opah, monchong and oilfish.

The fishery lands only fresh, chilled — never frozen — fish, with 80% sold locally and 18% sent to the mainland, supporting thousands of jobs, with an ex-vessel value of more than $110 million.

Trolling is the primary fishing method in the non-longline pelagic fishery, with nearly 1,000 commercial participants in 2018. The catch was primarily tuna and mahimahi, generating revenues of more than $10 million.

Comments can be submitted by filling out a comment form online at forms.gle/AoFMcMTP4axUvrKF6, using a public comment sheet and emailing Joshua.DeMello@wpcouncil.org., or mailing hard copies to 1164 Bishop St., Suite 1400, Honolulu, HI 96813 Attn: Joshua DeMello, WPRFMC.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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