Honolulu) – Today, the State Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) agreed to a request from the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) to reopen four of twelve Bottomfish Restricted Areas (BRFAs) in the Main Hawaiian Islands. These restricted areas were first established in 1998 to provide refuge for what are known as the deep-7 bottomfish species. They were set up based on a federal stock assessment that indicated certain species were in danger of being overfished.
DAR Acting Administrator Brian Neilson explained, “A 2018 stock assessment by NOAA, using improved methodologies, determined that the deep-7 bottomfish complex is not experiencing overfishing currently.” The BLNR approved what is considered a conservative approach toward opening up some BRFAs for fishing. This approach, Neilson and a DAR biologist told the BLNR, “ensures continued protection of significant portions of the bottomfishing habitat while allowing us to gather more information about the influence of fishing on bottomfish stocks over time.”
The deep-7 (Lehi, Hapuu, Ulaula or Ehu, Ulaula koae or Onaga, Opakapaka, Kalekale and Ukikiki or Gindai) are among the most-sought after fish for human consumption. The fishery exists in both state and federal waters and is currently managed under a cooperative, joint approach. Based on the most recent data analysis, the 2018 commercial take of the deep-7 was 230,912 pounds. The Annual Catch Limit (set at 42% risk of overfishing) is 492,000 pounds. For the past 10 years the catch has averaged 251,761 pounds. This, in addition to NOAAs stock assessment, indicated that the stock is not being overfished. This is the information DAR believes warranted less restrictive rules.
Existing regulations will remain in effect and include bottomfish vessel registration, expedited catch reporting, expedited dealer reporting, gear restrictions, commercial size limits, non-commercial bag limits, and Annual Catch