Fishing licensing is long overdue
I agree with the Department of Land and Natural Resources that a noncommercial licensing program is long overdue. I have seen what overfishing can do. The huge schools of mamo, all gone. The immense school of palani that used to feed in the shallows of Honokohau with their tails sticking out of the water are gone. All just a memory now. I’m guilty. I fished the shores of West Hawaii for many years. Like the thousands of people who fish our island’s shores every year, I put some serious pressure on our reefs. We have bag and size limits for fishing, but who knows what they are? Who follows them? Who cares? Unfortunately, people will not police themselves. We need to regulate and monitor our ocean resources. We also need to enforce these regulations. This all takes funding, which a licensing program would provide.
I do not agree with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs that Native Hawaiians should be exempt from licensing or regulations. Several years ago, I kept hearing the term “Native Hawaiian gathering rights,” especially when it pertained to shoreline access issues. So I asked Leinaala Keakealani, a Native Hawaiian whose family lived at Kaupulehu for many generations, what that meant. What she told me really surprised me. She said it was a Western concept, not Hawaiian. What she said made a lot of sense. The Hawaiians before Capt. James Cook were the ultimate conservationists. They were in tune with the life cycles of the ocean. They had strict laws about fishing and who could do the fishing. Not everyone was allowed to fish. Breaking the law was punishable by death. Why so severe? The life of the village depended on the life of the ocean near that village. Deplete the ocean and you starve the village. The Native Hawaiians of today should follow in the footsteps of their ancestors and be the conservationists that they were.
The idea of licensing only tourists is ridiculous. We should have a fee structure where residents’ fees are less than noneresidents. Other states do that. We could also have a fee for Native Hawaiians whether they live in state or not. That should satisfy some of OHA’s concerns.
So let’s do this Hawaii. We can learn from other states that require fishing licenses. Let’s do this before it’s too late to save our aquatic resources.