State considers ban on scuba spearfishing, new fishing regulations

Reef fish

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Updated story:  The state board voted to support scuba spearfishing ban in West Hawaii

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources heard hours and hours of testimony Friday as it considers proposed changes that would add to fishing regulations in waters off West Hawaii.

A standing room only crowd overflowed into the halls at the Kalanimoku Building as dozens lined up to share their opinions on a proposal to ban scuba spearfishing in waters off West Hawaii.

“The proposal to ban scuba and spears is dangerous and compromises the community’s ability to gather food, threatens the livelihood and safety of food providers,” said Tony Costa of Hawaii Nearshore Fishermen.

“Science that is convincing in 70 other island nations, doesn’t work here that’s kind of like saying gravity works in New York and Buenos Aires but not here,” says Tina Owens.

Owens of the LOST FISH Coalition says West Hawaii fishermen and divers spent nearly a decade working to draft the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area rules.

“It’s only in the last couple of weeks that we’ve had this concerted organized effort and a lot of them are not from West Hawaii, organized effort to come here and kill this thing,” she says.

“Ocean diving is a young persons sports, scuba simply provides older divers an ability to continue to participate in that activity,” said Phil Fernandez of Hawaii Fishermen’s Alliance for Conservation Tradition.

Fernandez says habitat health should be the focus.

He poured sunscreen into a water bottle to make his point.

“That becomes this — and that goes, floats away sinks down onto the reef,” he says.

The proposed rules also included updating the boundaries of the Puako fish management area.

“This idea of we can take whatever we want is going to deplete the ocean,” said Francis Ruddle, a fisherman from Puako.

And only allowing 40 species to be collected for the aquarium fish trade.

“West Hawaii Fishery Council is nothing more than a special interest group lobbyist disguised as community interest representative with a set agenda where even facts and science will derail them from attempting to accomplish their goals,” said Bob Hajek of the Big Island Association of Aquarium Fishermen.

Others simply were there to observe; fearing any changes, particularly a ban on scuba spearfishing in West Hawaii could lead to similar changes elsewhere in Hawaii.

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