Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Fisherman's Perspective

by Eden Zang

“Fishermen are conservationists. We want management. Status quo is killing our reef.” - Darrell Tanaka

Darrell Tanaka, local fisherman and the organizer of Roi Roundup, spoke Thursday, June 9th at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary’s volunteer meeting. Tanaka spoke about the origins of the Roi Roundup, an “invasive species spearfishing tournament,” and why continued efforts are imperative. The roi roundup started as a fundraising effort and has morphed into a conservation movement. It brings together fishermen, local government and scientists to address the impact of roi on our local marine ecosystem and to address our ailing resources. Roi, or the peacock grouper, is an alien species introduced in the 1950’s to Hawaiian waters. Darrell made reference to research by University of Hawaii researcher Dr. Jan Dierking, which demonstrates that roi consume local reef fish, finding that a single roi can consume approximately 146 reef fish a year. Multiply that by the hundreds of thousands of roi currently in our waters and it may represent a significant threat to our fisheries. In addition, they can potentially outcompete our local fish for the food they would normally eat.

Tanaka made it clear that he was sharing his own opinions in his presentation, and has a degree in marine biology in addition to being a life-long fisherman. Tanaka made quite clear he fishes not for sport, but to put food on the table. He explained that fish is a resource and not a commodity for him. The difference? A commodity is something you can sell or trade. A resource is something that has great value and is kept for yourself or given to someone extremely important to you.

Tanaka spoke from a fisherman’s point of view. He fielded questions from the crowd and encouraged tough questions. It was a raw perspective and as Tanaka said several times he’s not “sugar coating” anything and instead wanted to present the “grim reality.” From “Marine Protected Areas” vs. “Fisheries Management Areas,” monk seals, turtles, local management strategies here on Maui and statewide, recreational fishing licenses and so forth...Tanaka answered all questions that came his way.

Conservation can be a sensitive subject. Pointing fingers gets us nowhere. We all have to work for the good of the reef, Tanaka emphasized. One way to protect our oceans is having the right resource enforcement numbers on hand at all times. 
Program these two numbers in your phone RIGHT NOW: DOCARE & the police non-emergency police line for Maui:
Maui DOCARE office: (808) 873- 3990
Maui Police non-emergency line: (808) 244-6400

Grab the Division of Aquatic Resources’ fishing regulations booklet (available at all DAR offices and online at the DAR website) and learn the rules. Download the “Making a Difference Action Guide”  which provides guidelines on how to respond to various issues including fishing violations, and has a chart listing the DOCARE, DAR & police nonemergency numbers for each island, among many other things.

If you report a suspected illegal fishing method make sure you have all the correct information. Report what exactly someone is doing illegally. Also, get a description of the car make, model, license plate and description of the people.

Darrell encouraged people to attend the upcoming workshop in Lahaina on June 23rd (5:30 -7:30 pm at the Kaunoa West Maui Senior Center) sponsored by DOCARE and Makai Watch partners.

Tanaka and fellow fishermen found a way to utilize their passion and skills to give back to the community. What a great example for us all to do our part no matter how big or small!

A few references to explore:

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