The Hunting, Farming and Fishing Association opposes SB137 Relating to Lay Nets.
We oppose this measure due to the fact that nets are a method used to provide food for families and communities and the measure does not provide adequate reason to regulate these nets. The current regulations that are in place have changed significantly throughout the past 10 years. Each year, there are new regulations that are proposed and supported by the Department of Land and Natural Resource to include restrictions on soak time, net length, water depth, time of day, mesh size, and inspection requirements. Each new bill has been proposed by the Department based on the understanding that these new regulations can be enforced. The Department’s justification in regard to this bill is that they are unable to regulate the current regulations implemented in the last few years, the lay nets harm the environment, and the bycatch problem has not been resolved. However, their data is based on bycatch caught since the 1990s. This is not the fault of individuals that have adjusted and complied with the current regulations. This a lack of effort on by the Department to accept and work with individuals that use this method to gather food.
The lay net method to gather food has been in existence for more than 50 years. The lay net is, and continues to be, a traditional method to gather food that has been passed down through generations. Fishing has changed since 1778, and today we have many new methods to gather fish to feed our families. This, like many types of fishing methods, is becoming a dying art with far fewer individuals participating and more government regulations limiting access and methods of gathering. If this measure passes, we will effectively destroy a traditional practice used to feed families.
Bycatch happens and needs to be addressed. No matter the method, there will be bycatch. Using hook and line also results in bycatch to include turtles and monk seals. The department and other federal agencies created a proactive campaign to encourage fishermen to de-hook and call in accidental catches. How many individuals state wide have accidentaly hooked turtles or monk seals in the last 5 years, and how many of these accidental hooking resulted in death? The department has implemented regulations in the last 5 years that are supposed to reduce bycatch. Where are the results from the department since the regulations have been imposed and assumed to be regulated? Were the seals and turtles a result of law-abiding lay netters or illegal lay netters? This needs to be addressed.
Hawaiian practice and tradition evolved with technology to include the use of lay nets. Hawaiians culture was built on utilizing the resources to feed families and enhance living conditions. To assume that the Hawaiians lived a perfect symbiotic relationship with the environment is not true, as can be pointed out with Kamehameha and the sandalwood trade in the late 1800s into the early 1900s. Kamehameha had harvested sandalwood to the point of extinction to build wealth.
Hawaiians continue to maintain Hawaiian tradition by using their resources to feed families and enhance living conditions. We have embraced technology and improved our method of gathering from our resources with the use of the lay net. The lay net is now an important part of our culture.
The Hunting, Farming and Fishing association have seen many rules and regulations proposed each year to address public opinion and assumptions without sound justification. We have seen fishermen and fishing methods villanized without an understanding or willingness to seek understanding. If we allow this bill to pass, we are destroying a piece of our culture and taking food from individuals without just cause. We cannot continue to add fishing regulations that slowly take away our ability to gather from our resources and takes away from the traditional cultural practices of Hawaii.