HONOLULU, Hawaii – Now that scuba spearfishing has been banned under the new rules package for the West Hawaii Fishery Management Area, the Department of Land and Natural Resources wants to spend a quarter of a million dollars to study spearfishing impacts in the same area.
DLNR chair William Aila tried to explain the request during a recent budget hearing at the House Finance Committee.
“Can you kind of explain the logic of putting in the ban,” asked Hawaii Island representative Richard Onishi, “before you do the study?”
“That would be impossible,” replied Aila with a sigh and a laugh. “Administrative rules go through a process. Contrary to my best efforts to convince my fellow land board members that we should at least do a study before we (ban it), the vote went the other way.”
“This is an attempt to go back in a provide some science to document the decision that was made,” Aila added, “whether it was the correct decision or the incorrect decision.”
The scuba spearfishing ban was a controversial aspect of the rules when they were proposed and vetted in public meetings during a lengthy approval process. Aila even tried to have the ban removed from the rules before the land board took the final vote for approval. Aila’s attempt didn’t sit well with those who helped craft the rules.
When the governor signed the new rules into effect in December, the scuba spearfishing ban was put in place. Now, Aila wants to see if a study can prove whether or not it was the right decision.
“The 250,000 will give us the ability to get some one to go down on the ground,” Aila told the Finance Committee, “and identify how much spearfishing was going on in Kona. And then what the impacts are … whether it be by commercial fisherman or recreational fisherman. That money should give us that answer.”
“We have science based on spearfishing in other parts of the world,” Aila said, “which convinced the board members to pass it. I’m not convinced that West Hawaii is like other parts of the world.”
The House only approved $50,000 of the $250,000 request. DLNR is now looking at how to revise the project for that amount of funding.