Land Board Bans Scuba Spearfishing in West Hawaii

·By civilbeat

The Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources voted on Friday to approve a new set of rules governing fishing on the west side of the Big Island. 

The new rules ban spearfishing with scuba gear, impose new restrictions on aquarium fishing and revise the boundaries of the fisheries management area off of Puako.

The six-member board listened to about seven hours of testimony, much of it from disgruntled fishermen who oppose the new restrictions, before making a final decision. 

William Aila, who is both chair of the board and the Department of Land and Natural Resources, opposed the rules. The rest of the board voted unanimously in favor of the rules, except for David Goode who joined Aila in opposing the scuba spearfishing ban. 

The rules, which have been carried over through three administrations, have been in the works for 10 years. They will now go to the attorney general for review and the governor’s office for final signature.

The most controversial of the proposals was the scuba spearfishing ban. Opponents of the practice argued that fishermen often shoot the fish at night while they are sleeping and that it’s too easy to kill fish at unsustainable levels. 

But Aila, who is a fisherman himself, and others, argued that it’s not possible to shoot that many fish with a speargun at night. Further, he said that there was no data on scuba spearfishing and therefore impossible to tell whether the practice was hurting the fish population. 

— Sophie Cocke