Maui fish­ers mull prospects of new li­cens­ing, per­mit or reg­istry sys­tem

Hawaii is the only coastal U.S. state with­out a method to cover non­com­mer­cial fish­ing prac­tices

The Maui News - - FRONT PAGE - By MELISSA TANJI, Staff Writer

Maui fish­ers ex­pressed mixed views over pos­si­ble non­com­mer­cial ma­rine fish­ing reg­istry, per­mit or li­cens­ing sys­tems in Hawaii, fol­low­ing meet­ings on a study that ex­plored the sys­tems.

Con­ser­va­tion In­ter­na­tional Hawaii and the West­ern Pa­cific Fish­ery Coun­cil shared find­ings from a 2016 joint fact-find­ing study group that re­searched the fea­si­bil­ity and im­pli­ca­tions of the var­i­ous sys­tems Tues­day night at the Cameron Cen­ter in Wailuku. A meet­ing was held on Molokai on Wed­nes­day. A meet­ing on Lanai will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Tues­day at Lanai Com­mu­nity Cen­ter.

Hawaii is the only coastal U.S. state with­out a manda­tory non­com­mer­cial ma­rine fish­ing reg­istry, per­mit or li­cense or RPL sys­tem, be­cause pre­vi­ous at­tempts to en­act a sys­tem were not suc­cess­ful, ac­cord­ing to the study’s ex­ec­u­tive sum­mary.

The study group did not iden­tify a pre­ferred al­ter­na­tive or say if a sys­tem should be im­ple­mented. But it con­cluded there are no le­gal or con­sti­tu­tional bar­ri­ers in Hawaii that would pro­hibit the im­ple­men­ta­tion of such a sys­tem. Also, a sys­tem could be de­signed that would not vi­o­late Na­tive Hawai­ian tra­di­tional and cus­tom­ary rights pro­tected un­der Hawaii law, the study said.

“I’m all for a free fish­ing li­cense,” said long­time diver Dar­rell Tanaka, who at­tended the Tues­day meet­ing. “We should have (free) fish­ing li­cense. Not ev­ery­one knows the rules. Not ev­ery­one is com­pli­ant. A fish­ing li­cense can re­ally help with ed­u­ca­tion.”

Tanaka said that with a hunt­ing li­cense, ev­ery­one needs to take a class to un­der­stand rules and reg­u­la­tions. The fish­ing li­cense also could have a class and per­haps the fish­ing li­cense test and ed­u­ca­tion ma­te­rial could be avail­able on­line.

“Ba­si­cally it’s an op­por­tu­nity for the state to give a reg­u­la­tion hand­book to ev­ery fish­er­man.”

Tanaka said that with a li­cense the state and law­mak­ers would have a count of how many fish­ers there are in the Hawaii and know “how many peo­ple they are af­fect­ing” when mak­ing laws along with rules and reg­u­la­tions.

“It puts fish­er­men on the map,” Tanaka added.

The study notes var­i­ous sur­veys done to iden­tify the num­ber of non­com­mer­cial fish­ers in Hawaii. Num­bers vary and may range up to 396,000.

Tanaka isn’t so en­thused about hav­ing a li­cense fee

be­cause fish­ers be­lieve they al­ready pay taxes and “you never know when a fee could be a lit­tle bit too much for some­body.”

But he added that non­res­i­dents who fish on dif­fer­ent is­lands could be charged a fee to fish out­side of their home­towns.

An­other long­time fish­er­man, Gary Hashizaki, pres­i­dent of the Maui Cast­ing Club, said that in gen­eral “peo­ple don’t want” to pay for a li­cense or a per­mit be­cause they are used to fish­ing for free.

But if a sys­tem needs to be in place and if a fee needs to be charged, Hashizaki said he hopes the state would use that money to help fish­ers.

“I don’t think it’s go­ing to break your pocket, but if they can use the money for ben­e­fit the fish­er­men, not like use it for rail,” said Hashizaki, who also at­tended the Maui meet­ing with about 60 other peo­ple.

But Hashizaki said he was con­cerned about fees hurt­ing younger fish­er­men, such as his adult son. As a se­nior ci­ti­zen, Hashizaki said it is pos­si­ble that his fees could be waived.

Fol­low­ing the statewide meet­ings that wrap up on Oahu next week, a com­mu­nity re­port will be put to­gether re­flect­ing what was said by all at the meet­ings, said Aarin Gross, se­nior pro­gram man­ager for pol­icy and op­er­a­tions for Con­ser­va­tion In­ter­na­tional Hawaii. The re­port will be shared with peo­ple who at­tended the meet­ings and pro­vided an email ad­dress and those who were in­ter­ested.

The Depart­ment of Land and Nat­u­ral Re­sources will re­ceive the re­port to help the depart­ment de­cide what type of pro­posal to present to the Leg­is­la­ture next year, said David Sakoda, a pro­gram spe­cial­ist with the DLNR’s Di­vi­sion of Aquatic Re­sources.

Sakoda said the DLNR could, through the gover­nor’s of­fice, in­tro­duce a bill to give the depart­ment per­mis­sion to im­ple­ment a reg­is­tra­tion, per­mit or li­cense sys­tem.

“Right now it’s wait and see,” Sakoda said.

He said that im­ple­ment­ing some type of sys­tem could help the state man­age fish­eries bet­ter now and into the fu­ture. But the depart­ment would await the re­sponse from the com­mu­nity.

Sakoda and sev­eral other DLNR of­fi­cials pro­vided in­put into the study.

He said that in the past when pro­pos­als were made to im­ple­ment some type of reg­is­tra­tion, per­mit or li­cens­ing sys­tem there were many ques­tions that could not be an­swered.

“This study aimed at an­swer­ing those ques­tions, so we can move past those hur­dles and start think­ing of whether a sys­tem could be im­ple­mented,” Sakoda added.

Just last leg­isla­tive ses­sion, there were two bills that pro­posed some type of sys­tem. The bills, put for­ward by leg­is­la­tors and not the state DLNR, both died, Sakoda said.

He said that fish­ers pointed to wait­ing for the 2016 study to be re­leased be­fore any de­ci­sions were made.

The study group was made up of fish­ery re­source man­agers, ex­perts and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from fisher or­ga­ni­za­tions and non­govern­men­tal groups.

The group fo­cused on eval­u­at­ing any po­ten­tial RPL sys­tem based on its abil­ity to meet three pri­mary ob­jec­tives: pro­vide ad­di­tional and more ro­bust data to sup­port fish­ery man­age­ment; fos­ter two-way di­a­logue be­tween fish­ers and man­agers by iden­ti­fy­ing the uni­verse of non­com­mer­cial fish­ers in Hawaii; and de­vel­op­ing ap­proved com­mu­ni­ca­tion path­ways along with cre­at­ing a source of in­de­pen­dent con­tin­u­ous fund­ing to sup­port ef­fec­tive fish­eries man­age­ment.

The group an­a­lyzed five RPL sys­tems and came up of list of pros and cons.

For ex­am­ple, if the ex­ist­ing sys­tem were con­tin­ued, ma­rine fish­ing would still be free, but of­fi­cials would not know how many peo­ple were fish­ing and would have a hard time man­ag­ing fish­eries.

If there were a free reg­istry sys­tem, it would give a count of who is fish­ing and en­hance out­reach and ed­u­ca­tion. But it would be dif­fi­cult to get com­pli­ance and no rev­enue would be gained for ad­min­is­ter­ing the sys­tem.

A fee-based li­cense with fee waivers or re­duc­tions for cer­tain cat­e­gories of fish­ers would pro­duce more data on fish­ers and gen­er­ate a new rev­enue source. But the sys­tem with fee waivers or re­duced fees could be more com­pli­cated and re­quire more funds to in­sti­tute and main­tain.

A low fee li­cense with per­mits, stamps or tags at ad­di­tional charge would iden­tify a more com­plete uni­verse of fish­ers and gen­er­ate a new rev­enue source. But the sys­tem may be com­pli­cated and con­fus­ing and could in­fringe on cul­tural rights.

A free li­cense with per­mits, stamps or tags at ad­di­tional charge would cap­ture ba­sic in­for­ma­tion of all fish­ers while ad­ding in­for­ma­tion about spe­cific ac­tiv­i­ties. But the rev­enues may not cover im­ple­men­ta­tion costs and could be seen as un­fair in tar­get­ing cer­tain ac­tiv­i­ties.

As for the sys­tem im­pact­ing Na­tive Hawai­ian rights and prac­tices, the study says that the in­tent of the sys­tem would be to pro­vide ad­e­quate data on fish­ery health and po­ten­tially fund ad­di­tional mon­i­tor­ing and en­force­ment ef­forts, which is a form of “malama” con­ser­va­tion and ste­ward­ship aligned with Hawai­ian cul­tural be­liefs and prac­tices.

It adds that a RPL sys­tem can re­spect and pro­tect Na­tive Hawai­ian rights by hav­ing some sort of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion for the Na­tive group to alert state of­fi­cials pa­trolling state wa­ters that the in­di­vid­u­als are ex­er­cis­ing their pro­tected rights.

The prac­tice right hold­ers also could be ex­empted from fees as­so­ci­ated with the sys­tems when con­duct­ing the prac­tices, but may be sub­ject to the same rules while fish­ing in other ar­eas not as­so­ci­ated with the cul­tural prac­tices, the study said.

To view the re­port, visit www.wp­coun­cil.org/rplre­port/.

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