Fishing licenses needed for residents as well as visitors
The letter by Cecelio Libadisos in the March 22 edition of West Hawaii Today brings to light an interesting issue. The one statement he made that is true but not pleasant to be reminded of is: “The Native Hawaiians of today should follow in the footsteps of their ancestors and be the conservationists that they were.”
I grew up in Ka‘u where fishing was not a sport for us. Fishing was a means of survival for a number of families we knew and shared our catches with. We had no refrigeration, so we were careful to catch only what we could consume and share. There were no game wardens to police the shoreline, but the old-timers who regularly fished the area did not hesitate to check on the “young bucks” and their catches. Violating the commonsense fishing rules did not automatically impose the death penalty but it made a lasting impression on us.
The March 13 front page of West Hawaii Today depicted a picture of what is now called the Achilles tang, to us, it was the common pa kuikui. Only beginning spear fishermen would catch them because of their numbers. The cliff at South Point used to contain the most colorful array of fish in its clear shoreline waters. It was fascinating to watch the thousands of fish, especially the pa kuikui, feeding in the water at the cliff’s edge change color as they displayed the different sides of their bodies in the rising and falling surf. Then came the bow and arrow fishermen; standing on the cliff, they annihilated the fish for sport. Today, that amazing picture of shoreline feeding fish, in their multicolor dances, is only a memory.
The other more preferred food fish survived until the underwater flashlight enhanced night diving and the scuba tank fishermen came to rape the deeper waters, even at night. Standing on the cliff and watching the uhu, ulua, veke, kole nukuhewa and other popular eating fishes swim in the clear waters below were real incidents that remain only in the memories of the older folks. What a travesty that the next generation will never experience that beauty or have access to that food source.
Today the old folks who were not hesitant to curtail the activities of the young bucks are gone, the abundant fish populations that once seemed unfathomable are close to depletion, but fishing remains a sport. The present mindset seems to imply that conservation is something that should be imposed only on others to practice.
So, the question raised is, should only visitors be required to have fishing licenses? The answer is an emphatic “No!” All fishermen, 16 and older, should be required to obtain fishing licenses after attending classes on fish and shoreline conservation practices. The situation is upon us because we allowed it. The responsibility to replenish the shoreline is ours. The end result need not remain a possibility only in the memories of the oldtimers.