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License fees to triple for commercial fishermen

Updated: 
September 27, 2017 - 12:05am

HILO — The state Department of Land and Natural Resources wants to triple license fees for commercial fishermen and charter captains while requiring more paperwork for dealers in fish and other marine life.

The state agency is holding public hearings on the planned rule changes. Hearings are set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at both the Honokohau Harbor Big Game Fishing Clubhouse in Kailua-Kona and Aupuni Center conference room in Hilo.

“It’s been almost 20 years since the last time the fees were raised and the current revenues are insufficient to cover our operating expenses,” DLNR spokesman Dan Dennison said Tuesday in a statement. “The new revenues would stabilize our long-term staffing needs, enable us to maintain our licensing system and potentially improve services to the commercial fishing public.”

In addition, the increased revenues from the fees will “offset losses in revenues from non-resident fees for on-going operational expenses and to add new on-line reporting and licensing options to DLNR’s website to better serve the fishing public,” Division of Aquatic Resources Administrator Bruce Anderson said in a press release.

The $50 fee for issuance and renewals of the annual commercial license fee will increase to $100 initially, then to $150 on Jan. 1. Renewals can be made two months or less before expiration, under the rule changes.

A group of charter captains and commercial fishermen interviewed by the newspaper at Honokohau Harbor on Tuesday didn’t seem too concerned about the fee hike, as long as they see improved services and harbor upgrades for the money.

The state might also consider a tiered license fee to differentiate between the small fisherman who goes out once or twice a month and active commercial fishermen who are out every day, said Capt. Jeff Rogers.

Capt. Bill Murtaugh, who runs charters out of Keauhou Bay Small Boat Harbor, said the paperwork can be overwhelming at times. The detailed monthly reports must be submitted on time, or the fishermen face substantial fines, he said. Murtaugh seemed OK with the new fees, as long as boat captains see some bang for their buck.

“They want a ton of information,” Murtaugh said. “To increase the fee to give them the information they need … We’re doing our end giving them all this vital information. To me, it’s a one-way street.”

Marine dealers are also required to submit weekly or monthly reports on the species, numbers, weights and values of each of the varieties of marine life landed in the state that the dealer obtained, purchased, transferred, exchanged or sold during the reporting period, along with the name and license number of the commercial marine licensee from whom the marine life was received, under the proposed rules.

Jeffrey Ikeda, a fish buyer for KTA Superstores, said the store already provides that information monthly to the state.

“Everything that comes in has to be recorded,” he said.

The rule changes can be viewed at https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar/files/2017/08/HAR_13-74dr.pdf

The public can also mail written testimony by Friday, Oct. 13 to the Division of Aquatic Resources, 1151 Punchbowl Street, Room 330, Honolulu, HI 96813.

Photojournalist Laura Ruminski contributed to this report.

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