PAIA – To help remedy tension between Hana fishermen and outsiders who want to fish at a buoy put out by the Hana community, proposals involving fishing restrictions and adding additional buoys surfaced Saturday at a meeting held to address the user conflicts around the fish-aggregating devices, which outsiders have reported led to threats against them.
At the meeting, Hana fishermen asked that fishing at buoys the community deploys be only for them, saying they just want “peace” in waters they have fished in for generations. They said their catches are about far more than just making money; they feed the Hana community.
“We just like one place we can have peace, that’s all,” said Hana resident Robert Malaiakini,who teared up when speaking to the crowd of at least 100 people at the Paia Community Center.
He said Hana has just 20 boats that go out to fish in the area. The fishermen not only catch fish for profit but give fish to others in their community.
Malaiakini also got emotional during the meeting before his presentation.
One fisherman had asked what he should have done when, he said, someone followed him while on the water, yelling and warning him not to go out to the Hana buoy.
While some in the crowd muttered, “Go home!” Malaiakini said out loud, “You like someone go (into your) house and take your valuables? That’s the same thing.”
Greg Lind Sr., also a fisherman from Hana, said that for generations he and his family have been fishing in the Hana area.
“We never go outside our ahupuaa (land division),” he said. “We stay in our jurisdiction.”
Lind offered help to other fishermen to set up their own buoys outside of Hana, but he also appealed to fishermen and to government officials at the meeting, saying Hana fishermen would like to limit fishing around the Hana community-deployed buoys to just their group.
Lind said limiting the fishing to Hana people would also “eliminate garbage like this, we are not like this,” alluding to the allegations of threats made by Hana fishermen.
The meeting was sponsored by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council to address some of the conflicts and to explain the fish-aggregating devices or FADs and the FADs permitting processes. The staff also considered the possibility of having more council-sponsored buoys in Maui waters.
Two Maui fishermen, Layne Nakagawa and Brian Yoshikawa, told the crowd that they are working with the council to place two buoys, one for large boats such as Nakagawa’s 31-footer and one for smaller boats such as Yoshikawa’s 21-footer, in waters off northern Maui.
“I’m for all of us in this room,” Nakagawa said. “Wherever you are from, you are welcomed to use our buoy,” he said.
The men are seeking to place the smaller fish-aggregating device in waters directly north of Maui, which would be approximately 26 miles from Kahului Harbor. The buoy for the larger boats would be farther out, in a northeastern direction, about 46 miles from Kahului Harbor.
Nakagawa said these buoys would be around 17 and 30 miles from the closest point on land and also would be in the vicinity of existing state fish-aggregating devices.
He said proposed positions are preliminary and still up for discussion.
Yoshikawa said he feels for the Hana fishermen and said the buoys he is proposing, although on the north part of Maui, would be for everyone.
He said it all comes down to respect while on the ocean. “Just fish in a respectful way,” he said.
Outside the meeting, Mark Mitsuyasu, program officer with the council, said the proposals and comments made at the meeting will be taken into consideration in working with communities about their concerns.
Before the meeting got to the point where Hana residents proposed to restrict fishing around their community-launched buoy, the council staff was repeatedly asked about who can fish around the devices.
Council staff member Eric Kingma said “everyone” can fish around such buoys.
Some at the meeting, including Pukalani fisherman Eric Nakamura, who has been critical of how the council has handled the council-sponsored Hana community buoy in the past, as well as the reports of threats involving the buoys, criticized how the council has handled the furor. Kingma acknowledged the council could have done a better job at communicating to the public about its assistance for a community fish-aggregation device for Hana, which was deployed in 2007, after hearing concerns from Hana residents about how they were going through tough economic times and how bottom fishing closures would also affect them.
Kingma acknowledged that the council did not have a “major public campaign” to explain what was going on in Hana, but when fishermen from outside of Hana called its office on Oahu to ask where the Hana buoy was, the council gave its coordinates and other information fishermen requested.
“I admit there could have been better communication. But it’s (threats and hostilities) not Wespac’s fault,” Kingma said.
Kingma said the council worked with the Hana community and also provided funding in part for the legal buoy deployed in waters south of Hana in the Kipahulu area in 2007. He said that in June 2007, the fish-aggregation device detached and was later found in Hana Bay.
Council officials said the Hana community on its own then deployed the buoy back out along with another device, but both were lost in 2009. Staff said the buoys placed by the Hana community were not approved devices.
Kingma said the council collected data from Hana fishermen and non-Hana fisherman about their catches (when the council-sponsored buoy was in place) which showed that skipjack tuna, yellowfin tuna, mahimahi, bigeye tuna and ono were being caught in the area.
Officials said there are many buoys around the islands that are unpermitted. There are user conflicts across the state, not just around Hana.
The state of Hawaii has its own fish-aggregation device program with its buoys spread throughout the islands, including some off Maui.