By ERIN MILLER
Department of Land and Natural Resources officials don’t yet know when their governing board will consider a package of proposed rule changes for West Hawaii’s waters.
The department held a public hearing last month, taking testimony from more than 30 people on rules ranging from banning scuba spearfishing, establishing a 1,500-foot section of Kaohe Bay in South Kona as a fish replenishment area, a “white list” of 40 tropical fish species aquarium collectors could catch, prohibiting the take of nine shark and ray species and two invertebrates, and creating a West Hawaii Aquarium Permit.
DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward said the Division of Aquatic Resources is still reviewing testimony and comments and has not yet sent any recommendation to the Board of Land and Natural Resources.
The eagle ray, sting ray, sharks and two shellfish were the species on the proposed no-take list. The reasoning, according to the department, is many of the ray and shark species reach reproductive maturity later in life and the shellfish are two of the few predators of the crown-of-thorns starfish.
The West Hawaii Fisheries Council spent more than a decade taking community input and drafting proposals, which were then passed along to the Division of Aquatic Resources for consideration.
“It was a lot of time and a lot of years working on it,” fisheries council Chairman Glennon Gingo said Tuesday. “It is difficult to ask people to change habits and lifestyle.”
Still, he said, he thought the recommendations were relatively well-received at the December public hearing.
He said he had hoped the land board would be taking up the proposals sooner, rather than later.
The rule changes also included amendments to the existing rules. Among the amendments are restrictions to nighttime aquarium collecting, labeling requirements, and net and length clarifications. The proposed scuba spearfishing ban would make West Hawaii the lone area in the state to ban the practice. Federal officials said scuba spearfishing is so effective, fishermen can take far more fish than necessary, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report on the practice in Hawaii’s waters. The fishing technique is already banned in Australia.
Email Erin Miller at email@example.com.