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Biennial no-fishing zone returns to Waikīkī-Diamond Head area in 2023


The Waikīkī-Diamond Head Shoreline Fisheries Management Area has prohibited fishing in its waters biennially since 1988.

Phil Fernandez, the president of the Hawaiʻi Fishermen's Alliance for Conservation & Tradition, does not believe the Waikīkī-Diamond Head Shoreline Fisheries Management Area has good oversight.

"Are we looking at trying to enhance the fish stocks, make the coral reef healthy — what is the goal? There is no stated goal. There is no stated management plan," he said.

The area from the Waikīkī War Memorial Natatorium to the Diamond Head Lighthouse is a no-fishing zone on odd-numbered years.

People caught fishing in that area during 2023 can be fined $250 plus the retail market value of the fish by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources.

It’s their job to not only take care of the ocean ecosystem, but solve user conflicts between all sorts of beachgoers from tourists to fishermen.

"Fishermen do not wanna go somewhere where they’re gonna get hassled. They wanna get away from work. They wanna have some peace and quiet. They wanna enjoy the ocean, not go and have a confrontation. Thus, that area has become an area that is, for a lot of fishermen, not a fun place to go," Fernandez said.

Although the Waikīkī-Diamond Head location may not be a popular spot to catch dinner, it’s part of a bigger conversation about fishery management.

Some of DAR’s regulations seem arbitrary to the local fishing community.

Fernandez said this is largely due to the division not having stable leadership for two decades before the current administrator Brian Nielson stepped in.

The biennial prohibition does not seem to be effective for the Waikīkī-Diamond Head Shoreline.

"Typically we see higher effort and higher catch at the very beginning of the open years, and then that kind of tapers off throughout that first month and then it’s a lot lower for the remainder of the year. And in recent years that first-week catch has been going down compared to years ago," said DAR's fisheries program manager David Sakoda.

The declining seafood population is not a new dilemma. Overfishing and climate change are driving fish to the poles or wiping them out completely. There needs to be a balance between fishing and sustainability.

Local fishermen suggest the DAR co-manage the ocean with them. As frequent users of marine resources, they have a deep understanding of the ocean.

Fernandez said most fishermen actually want some form of management.

"We want to pass on the ocean to the next generation after us, and that means good management," he said.

Zoe Dym was a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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