HONOLULU (AP) - The state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday voted to prohibit spearfishing in waters off West Hawaii by people diving with the aid of scuba gear.
The board also decided to limit the collection of aquarium fish in the area to a list of 40 species, and redraw the boundaries of a fishery management area off Puako using updated information on the reef.
The scuba spearfishing ban was the most contentious measure considered.
The board approved it with a 4-2 vote after hearing more than six hours of testimony, much from fishermen opposing the ban. Board Chairman William Aila and member David Goode were the two voting against the measure. Robert Pacheco, a member from the Big Island, and three other members voted in favor.
The fishermen testified that the science doesn't call for a ban on the practice. They're also worried that banning spearfishing off West Hawaii would set a precedent and lead to other spearfishing bans around the state.
Those supporting the ban say scuba divers target larger fish, which is a concern because the offspring of larger female fish survive better and grow faster than the offspring of younger fish. They also argue that scuba fishermen harvest in deeper waters where fish take refuge.
Phil Fernandez, president of the Hawaii Fishermen's Alliance for Conservation and Tradition Inc., said fishermen who spearfish with the help of scuba gear go deeper and get different types of fish than fishermen who free dive.
Fernandez, of Kona, testified that development, use of fertilizer on land and cesspools are more important factors than overfishing that have led to damage to reefs.
Nearly 90 percent of the 565 people in West Hawaii who submitted public testimony on the topic last year supported the scuba ban.