DAR Begins Hosting Virtual Talk Story Sessions
The DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) will begin hosting virtual talk story sessions for interested fishers next week. These sessions, which are already underway on Kaua’i, will now be expanded to include the other islands. The sessions provide an opportunity for fishers and DAR staff to exchange information, concerns, and ideas.
Last year, Hawaii’s fisheries suffered a major market collapse due to the pandemic and diminished visitors to the Islands. A year later, tourists are back, and the local fresh-caught fish market has rebounded.
In addition, the 2021 legislative session saw eleven bills signed into law that relate to aquatic resource management, the most in state history. New Community Based Subsistence Fishing Areas (CBSFA) are in the works on multiple islands. Changes to bag limits, sizes, and seasons for multiple species of fish and crustaceans are being discussed. The effects of climate change and ever-increasing human activity are pressuring marine resources in ways that have not been seen before.
It’s critical to provide fishers with up-to-date information and equally important to ensure that the voice of the fishing community across the islands is being heard loud and clear by decision makers and resource managers. With state offices closed and restrictions to in-person meetings due to the pandemic, DAR is looking for new and potentially better ways of conducting community outreach and receive input from fishers.
“A common criticism I hear from fishers is that the only time we hear from DAR is when new fishing rules are being proposed”, said DAR Administrator Brian Neilson. “This is a valid criticism, and we need to do more to facilitate open dialogue with fishers that’s not associated with a rule-making process. In fact, we have plenty to discuss in-regard to fishing, fisheries, and other related topics. DAR does a lot of work throughout the state that has nothing to do with fishing regulations. We want to talk about these efforts too and hear more from fishers and build our relationship with the fishing community”.
Kaua’i DAR biologist Dr. Heather Ylitalo-Ward “hopes that by having a regular platform for dialogue with the fishing community we can build trust with fishers and be an advocate for their concerns from within the state government.”
These talk story sessions will be called “Holoholo Fisher Talk Story Sessions”. Although the meeting topics will stick to navigable waters, the idea is to keep a loose agenda to allow fishers to drive the discussion topics.
The Kaua’i DAR office began hosting a monthly series of fisher talk story sessions via Zoom in April of this year and it has been a positive and mutually beneficial experience. Not only has DAR been able to get information out to fishers, but they have been able to hear from a diverse group of subsistence, recreational, and commercial fishers on their concerns and ideas for better fisheries management. Through these meetings, DAR has been alerted to community concerns such as illegal activity, user conflicts, and observed changes in fish populations that may have not been heard about otherwise.
DAR has also been able to have more transparency about data collection methods and internal decision making that is behind some of these new management plans. According to Kaua’i fisherman Klayton Kubo, “The fisher forums have been a good opportunity to exchange information with DAR and promote good relationships with fishers and gatherers.”
In the coming months, DAR will be hosting bi-monthly scheduled fisher talk-stories for the entire state. The exact format may vary to meet the unique needs of each community, but the goal of clear and reciprocal communication will be the same. The schedule for the sessions has been posted on the “Announcements” section on the DAR website.