Fisheries Unit Continues Enforcement on Maui
By Wendy Osher
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources issued “multiple citations this winter” in north shore Maui waters for criminal fishing violations.
The announcement comes following the establishment of the Maui-based Community Fisheries Enforcement Unit in the spring of 2013.
The unit is part of a state pilot program that patrols a 13-mile stretch of coastline from Hulu Island below Waiheʻe to Baldwin Beach Park in Pāʻia, focusing on the protection of marine resources in near shore waters.
State officials say the unit issued 10 citations in November alone for a variety of prohibited activity–that’s in addition to the 12 citations issued in the first five months of operation.
Department officials say violations in November included: possession of undersize kumu; using a prohibited lay net; possession of lay net exceeding dimensions; using a thrownet in Kahului Harbor; possession of undersize octopus ; and, five citations for exceeding Kahului Harbor’s Fisheries Management Area bag limit.
Authorities attribute many of the violations to an appearance of a baitfish school in the harbor.
“Fishers eager to catch the small fish for consumption were exceeding the bag limit of 50 specimens per person per day within the Fisheries Management Area boundaries,” state officials said in an agency press release.
While it is legal to catch up to one gallon per person per day of these fish for personal use outside of the Fisheries Management Area, agency officials say rules within the area are more restrictive.
Enforcement officers issued two citations to an offshore laynet fisher who illegally netted nearly 300 pounds of various fish–the majority of which were ʻamaʻama or striped mullet–at Kanahā Beach Park.
In addition to the citations, the department reports that it conducted 11 other investigations , which authorities say resulted in nine administrative violations for check-in requirements at Kahului Harbor.
In an earlier announcement about the enforcement program, DLNR Chair William Aila, Jr., said, the “unit aims to increase public awareness about the importance of ocean conservation and pono fishing activities on Maui. It also sends a message that we are serious about protecting the marine resources of Maui.”
The public is also reminded that the mullet season is now closed until March 31, 2014, during the species’ peak spawning period. Violators face fines of up to $500, and/or 30 days in jail, plus up to $100 for each fish taken. During the open season, beginning April 1, 2014, mullet must be a minimum of 11 inches in length, authorities advise.