In 1996, the State of Hawai`i was ranked 48th among the 50 states in terms of budget for aquatics resource management.
In 1997, the legislature increased the Division of Aquatic Resource's (DAR) budget by a small amount under pressure from the combined forces of the governor, the DAR staff, and the public, to a total of $4.3 million. In 1998 the Legislature cut two DAR positions and $100,000 from their budget. Next year the economy is expected to worsen and the decline in budgetary support for fisheries management is expected to continue.
Even with Aquatic Resource in Hawai`i generating over 1 Billion Dollars per year, and contributing over 40 million in State Taxes for the General Fund, the State Legislature fails to recognize the importance of managing this essential resource. 75-80% of the advertising which promotes Hawai`i depicts a thriving marine environment, and tourist surveys indicated that out of the 10 tourist activities, 5 involve some sort of Aquatic activity. (see chart 2)
In addition to inadequate fiscal support, another major obstacle to effective fisheries management is the State Legislature, which has so far refused to entrust DAR with overall fisheries management authority through the rule-making process. As a result the Legislature gets involved in fisheries management down to an absurd level of detail. For example, during the 1997 legislative session, a bill was introduced that proposed banning mullet fishing during January and February in the North end of Kaneohe Bay. Other statutes set the minimum catch sizes of certain species below spawning size. There are a few powerful legislators that are balking at giving up their power to micro manage fisheries even though they have no expertise in this area. In 1998, these legislators managed to defeat yet another bill that would have turned fisheries management authority over to the DAR.
By giving this power to the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) more fishermen would be included in the management process and their input would have a significant effect on the management philosophies incorporated by the State. Currently legislative hearing preclude fishermen from participating due to lack of notice or the number of hearing one must attend just to hear one Bill. By giving the preliminary responsibility to DAR, the legislature will take the politics out of fisheries management and based it's decisions on science.
The Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) is mandated by statute to:
However, DAR is also prevented by statute from enacting many of the rules needed to carry out these mandates. Hawai`i's fishery resources (both state and federal jurisdiction) cover an area of some 923,000 square miles, about one third the entire area of the contiguous 48 states. Managing the State' fisheries is a twelve month job, requiring the attention of fisheries experts and the on-going incorporation of catch, effort, population and other data into the management process. It is unrealistic to expect the legislature, which is in session a little over three months of the year and which has a multitude of non-fisheries problems to deal with, to handle this task effectively.
There are some who have expressed concern that if rule making authority were given to DAR under H.R.S. chapter 91 that there would be a dimnishment of public input into the process. However, Hawai`i's Administrative Procedures Act actually provides for more checks and balances than does the present system. For example:
Fisheries management by rule making, rather than by statute would permit DAR to enact and implement the rules it needs to effectively monitor, enhance, and restore near shore reef areas and fish populations that have been decimated by development, pollution, habitat loss, and destructive fishing practices.
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