HONOLULU, Hawaii: The DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources is requesting to hold public hearings on administrative rule changes in regards to the West Hawaii Regional Fisheries Management Area – called WHRFMA – on Hawaii Island.

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After 10 years of research and community input, (video to the right from 2010) the Division of Aquatic Resources is looking to make some changes.

Established in 1998, the West Hawaii Regional Fisheries Management Area encompasses 147 miles of shoreline from South Point to Upolu Point in North Kohala, and was created to “ensure the sustainability of the State’s nearshore ocean resources, minimize user conflicts and resource depletion, carry out scientific research and monitoring, and provide for substantive involvement of the community in resource management decisions. The same year the management area was established, the West Hawaii Fisheries Council was formed, empowered by DLNR to serve as an advisory body for the management area.”

One new proposal is to prohibit SCUBA spearfishing in the WHRFMA, because of the “potential detrimental effect on reef fish populations”.

Another amendment would establish 1,500 foot section of Ka‘ohe Bay (Pebble Beach) as a Fish Replenishment Area (FRA) where no aquarium collecting or recreational fish feeding will be allowed. This change is the resolution to conflict that arose in 2004 between recreational user groups and aquarium fish collectors. At first, an “FRA” exchange appeared to be in the works, but ultimately, the Big Island Association of Aquarium Fisherman agreed to the simple closure of the bay to aquarium fish collecting without a trade-off.

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A third major proposal would be the establishment of a list of 40 fish species permitted for aquarium take, as well as a “no-take” list. This is talked about – again – in the video to the right ( from 2010)

There are also a number of revisions that would impact aquarium collectors… like the establishment of a West Hawai‘i Aquarium Permit required to collect aquatic life for aquarium purposes within the WHFRMA, as well as required labelling for nets or containers used to capture or hold aquatic life that must include the proper commercial marine license numbers.

There would also be restrictions on possession of aquarium collecting gear or aquarium life on a vessel after sunset or before sunrise, which would require prior notification to the DAR Kona office.

There would also be size and bag limits for aquarium collectors for kole, Achilles tang, and for all fishers for yellow tang.

There would also updates to the Puako Bay and Puako Reef Fisheries Management Area – or FMA – as well as the Keauhou Bay FMA.

The BLNR will decide on the hearing request on Friday (May 25, 2012) at 9 am at the Kalanimoku Building in Honolulu.