It’s not uncommon for the governor to sit on controversial rules approved by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources until all or most of the kinks are worked out. Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie took months to sign rules adopted to boost dam safety, giving staff of the Department of Land and Natural Resources time to explain the new process to landowners. Abercrombie even convened his own public hearing on rules the board had already approved to ban the use of SCUBA gear with spearfishing in West Hawaii.

At last month’s Western Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting, Alton Miyasaka, representing the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, reported that Gov. David Ige has not yet signed two sets of fishing rules passed late last year.

Puffer Fish Aquarium Trade

Puffer fish are common catches in the aquarium trade.

Wikimedia Commons

On Oct. 24, the Land Board approved the Haena Community Subsistence Fishing Area rules, which established strict limits on what kinds of marine life could be taken and which banned commercial fishing from a portion of the North Shore of Kauai.

The rules, the result of seven years of grassroots effort, had garnered broad community support, but a contested case hearing request by commercial fishermen prevented the rules from being signed. When the Land Board denied that request in December, it cleared the way for the governor’s signature. According to Miyasaka, however, the governor has not signed them.

Miyasaka said the DLNR is considering asking the Haena community to work out the details of an arrangement that would somehow allow commercial fishermen to harvest invasive fish species, such as taape, but is “hoping in the meantime the governor signs the rule and we can immediately do an amendment process.”

The other set of rules not yet signed by the governor would establish bag limits on various species of aquarium fish. Aquarium fish collectors had drafted the rules not to address any overfishing, but merely to prevent waste, Miyasaka said.

“It was a fairly unique effort that the industry approached the department for more regulations,” he said.

Although the then-DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources administrator Frazer McGilvray opposed the rules, his boss, then-DLNR director William Aila, supported them. The rules ultimately won Land Board approval, but didn’t make it to former Gov. Abercrombie’s desk before he left office.

Miyasaka said Gov. Ige is being lobbied by the “anti-aquarium collecting side,” which opposes the rules for not being restrictive enough.

“We’re trying to tell them it’s not about an overfished fishery. It’s about controlling waste,” Miyasaka said. “The anti-aquarium interest … is very persistent. This is an issue that has been going on since the ’70s. It’s a long battle and we’re trying to bring some science into it as well as some reasonable regulations.”

Reprinted with permission from the current issue of Environment Hawaii, a non-profit news publication. The entire issue, as well as more than 20 years of past issues, is available free to Environment Hawaii subscribers at Non-subscribers must pay $10 for a two-day pass.

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