KAHULUI, Hawaii (AP) — Proposed limits for Maui and Lanai fisheries on popular nearshore fish are drawing criticism from those who argue the rules would disrupt Native Hawaiian cultural traditions.
A community meeting organized by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to explain the proposals drew about 100 people Wednesday at Maui Waena Intermediate School. The changes would involve bag and size limits for fish including goatfish, parrotfish and jacks.
“I learned how to fish from the old people. If I lose this, I lose my cultural rights,” said Haiku resident James Sagawinit.
Others agreed that the proposed rule changes threaten their cultural practices.
Makawao resident Maui Fernandez said his 14-year-old son is starting to learn how to throw a net. “How (am) I gonna tell him, ‘Sorry boy, you cannot keep your ulua. That’s just another part of your Hawaiian (heritage) you cannot do anymore,’” he said.
The department is holding meetings to explain the proposals, how they were developed and what the process will be going forward.
“There’s a need to better manage these fish resources; there’s a great amount of concern about perceived overharvest,” said Russell Sparks, an aquatic biologist with the department’s Division of Aquatic Resources.
His division received 128 surveys showing that 70 percent were supportive of the changes. But those at the meeting said they never heard of the surveys circulated three years ago and that decisions shouldn’t be based on the opinions of only 128 people.
Paia resident and lifelong fisherman Patrick Borge said the state should look at other ways to manage fish resources.
There are other meetings scheduled next month in Lanai City, Hana and Kahului.