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Tilapia Fishing Tournament Focuses on Education, Outreach

February 22, 2020, 1:30 PM HST
* Updated February 21, 9:21 PM
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A weeklong fishing tournament on the banks of Wailoa River in Hilo was geared toward removing invasive fish species from the waterway.

One hundred twenty-nine anglers, of all ages, registered for the Wailoa River Tilapia Fishing Tournament, staged by the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) and other partners. It wrapped up Monday with an awards and outreach event at the Wailoa Art Center.

The 75 pounds of tilapia and 85 pounds of other non-native fish weighed earlier this week made a bit of a dent in the Wailoa population. The biggest fish caught was a 5.7-pound Nile tilapia. DAR Aquatic Biologist Troy Sakihara explained that long term, complete removal of the highly invasive fish, is unlikely.

“Our primary goal for the tournament was to highlight the importance of Hawai‘i’s estuary ecosystems for sport fishing. We wanted to spread awareness of invasive species, like tilapia, and their impacts,” said Sakihara.

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Sakihara and his team conceived the idea of the tournament after receiving reports that Nile and Blue tilapia had expanded throughout the entire Wailoa River system. Tilapia are known for reproducing quickly and growing fast. They live in a wide range of habitats and have broad diets, meaning they compete with native sport fishes for habitat and food resources.

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The goal, Sakihara concluded, was to demonstrate for fishers of all ages that invasive species like tilapia have natural traits that give them great advantages over native fishes.

“Unfortunately, at Wailoa and other places around the state, anglers are reporting catching more invasive fish while fishing for native species. We hope everyone concerned about the health of our estuaries will join us in doing everything possible to help protect these vital components of our native environment.”

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