By Wendy Osher
A one year report was released today for the state state’s first community fisheries enforcement unit, which operates in the waters around North Maui.
The team was established last year under a pilot program to protect near shore fisheries, and patrols a 13 mile stretch of Maui coastline from Hulu Island below Waiheʻe to Baldwin Beach Park in Pāʻia.
In the program’s first year of operation, from May 2013 to April 2014, officers initiated 60 investigations, compared to 17 in the same period from the previous year, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Department officials say the team also issued 71% more citations over the period, up from 24 to 41.
As the three-officer team marked its first full year of operation, Governor Neil Abercrombie and Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui issued a commendation today, applauding the North Maui Community Fisheries Enforcement Unit for its success.
“By utilizing a personal touch and one-on-one contact with fishers, our fisheries enforcement officers have become highly visible in what has traditionally been an area that sees a lot of fishing pressure. The unit provides a successful model upon which we may consider our plans to enhance our future efforts,” said DLNR Chairperson William J. Aila, Jr. in a press release statement. “This specialized unit is not only about enforcement, but also serves to promote education and public trust,” he said.
Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement Chief Randy Awo said the team’s presence also led to fewer complaints about illegal fishing with a 21% decline in complaints from the previous year.
“What’s notable is the number of people our officers contacted in the water and on-the-shore. They had 2,798 contacts in the field and conducted 468 fisher inspections. The good news is their visibility helped lead to an 88% compliance rate,” Awo said in a department press release.
Department officials say that in addition to citations, the team also educated more than 400 people at presentations and training events, and worked to resolve conflicts in restricted zones at Kanahā Beach.
When the program launched, state officials estimated that at least 74% of nearshore fish stocks in Hawaiʻi were being depleted or were in critical condition. Today, officers report that they are seeing improvements in the numbers and sizes of fish in the patrol area.
The team was formed under a partnership between the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Conservation International’s Hawaiʻi Fish Trust, and the Harold KL Castle Foundation.
According to earlier reports, state officials had expressed hopes of expanding upon the first-of-its-kind specialized unit by establishing other units across the state.
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