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Public meetings set for Hawaii fishing regulations proposal

November 26, 2018

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — Public meetings are being held this week to discuss the feasibility of a regulatory system for noncommercial fishing in Hawaii.

Conservation International Hawaii and the Western Pacific Fishery Council released a report on the issue nearly two years ago and will meet with residents across the state this week, West Hawaii Today reported Monday.

The proposal would carry annual fees for registry, permits or licensing on recreational fishing in Hawaii, the only U.S. state without noncommercial fishing regulations.

Opponents, particularly Native Hawaiians, see fishing as a right and an integral part of their culture.

The report, which does not advocate for or against the idea, says there are no laws to prevent regulation and that it’s possible to implement them without violating Native Hawaiian gathering rights protected under state law.

“I recreationally fish, but it’s to put food on the table,” said Billy Lum, 61, who’s been fishing in Hawaii for the last half-century. “I know a lot of Hawaiians are going to be totally against anything like that because we’re so used to being able to go out and provide food for the family.”

Conservation International Hawaii program director Matt Ramsey said his organization isn’t lobbying on behalf of either side of the issue.

“This meeting is not part of the rulemaking process,” Ramsey said. “I think a large misconception out there is that this is somehow related to state regulation or a legislative effort, and that’s definitely not the case. While those two things may happen on their own, we are not involved in that at all.”

The plan would require statutory authority from the state Legislature, but House Rep. Nicole Lowen, D-North Kona, said multiple bills have already been introduced to address noncommercial fishing regulation, including proposals to implement fees only on nonresidents who fish recreationally.

For a licensing system that also charges residents a fee, Lowen said Gov. David Ige would have to support the plan.

“If the administration is not on board with it, it would probably be dead in the water,” said Lowen.

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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