State Reopens Four Bottomfishing Restricted Areas
The State Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) has announced it will reopen four of 12 restricted bottomfish areas in the main Hawaiian Islands. The restricted areas were first established in 1998 to preserve what are known as the deep-7 bottomfish species, which were in danger of overfishing.
The motion resulted from a request by the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) because of new data showing the species are no longer under threat.
“A 2018 stock assessment by NOAA, using improved methodologies, determined that the deep-7 bottomfish complex is not experiencing overfishing currently,” said DAR Acting Administrator Brian Neilson.
The deep-7 include Lehi, Hapuu, Ulaula or Ehu, Ulaula koae or Onaga, Opakapaka, Kalekale and Ukikiki or Gindai. They are among the most-sought after fish for human consumption.
The partial reopening is considered a conservative approach that will help protect most of the bottomfishing habitat while allowing scientists to gather data about how fishing impacts these species over time.
Existing regulations will remain in effect including bottomfish vessel registration, expedited catch reporting, expedited dealer reporting, gear restrictions, commercial size limits, non-commercial bag limits, and annual catch limits.
Bottomfish grow relatively slowly and reach spawning size late in life. Larger, older fish are important to maintaining their population. This was one of the concerns that prompted the establishment of the restrictions in 1998.
DAR will continue monitoring the bottomfishing areas, tracking the number of fish caught and taking action should any changes or closures become necessary.