Hawaiians caught 3 times more fish annually by fishing less

By April 11, 2012Ocean News

Hawaiians Knew How To Fish Sustainably

A new study reveals that centuries ago, Hawaiians used to catch 3 times more fish annually than what is actually considered sustainable by experts today. They did it by closing off certain areas for a period of time to allow the area to replenish the fish stocks. It’s what Marine Protected Areas are proposed to do by modern day scientists and policy makers.

The authors of the study stated that the Hawaiians would employ similar practices as managers do today to control fisheries including temporary or permanent bans from certains areas of the reef, restrictions on certain species or gear, and catch limits. Their management systems were intricately planned and managed at the community level. Strategies were passed down from elder to young over centuries.

Ancient Hawaiians caught 3 times more than we do today

Ancient Hawaiians caught 3 times more than we do today...and they did it through proper management.

The major difference in the management strategies was the punishment for infractions against the Ocean Rules. Many of the punishments involved corporal punishment or even death. This type of punishment won’t fly in today’s society, but perhaps the punishment for breaking fisheries laws can get stricter than they are today.

Strict Enforcement

One author stated a person will get a harsher punishment if they shoplift sunglasses from a store then catch fish of the wrong size or during the wrong season. Fishermen are often fined for infractions, but it doesn’t seem to stop poaching in certain areas.

In addition, it’s much more difficult to enforce regulations in the Ocean because people can’t be present at all times. One way to overcome this challenge is to mandate fishing boats to constantly have the GPS on to track where they go in Ocean. A GPS can not only give managers the positions of the fishing boats, but also give them the speed at which they are travelling. The value of this data is high because if a trawl boat is moving slowly then managers can assume it has its gear down in the water trawling for fish and if it is moving faster, then the boat is assumed it is transiting between fishing spots or other destinations.

With or Without sophisticated technology, many researchers, including the ones in this study, suggest a community-based approach in managing local resources and the local community knows their local Ocean best and have the most to gain from proper management.

Question of the Day:
Which strategy do you think is better for managing fisheries: Community-Based Management or Government Management?

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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Anthony Zemba says:

    I think that niether solely community-based nor soley government based management is the answer both have pros and cons. I strongly feel that the system we have now through NEPA which requires a disclousre document for federal actions and public comment periods and stakeholder engagement for significant actions is the best solution.

  • Ron Harben says:

    Having the Ali’i place a kapu on fishing areas was successful because the community was homogeneous – all Hawaiians. With a heterogeneous community, you get the tragedy of the commons where everyone is out to get everything they can get without regard for the health of the commons; i.e., in this case, the reef. Hawaii has a notoriously poor governmental record; much indolence and some corruption. The federal government is having its staffing cut to the point of ineffectiveness. Regardless of which entity does the monitoring, I do favor much harsher punishments for those caught poaching the reefs for tropical fish as well as illegal shark (finning) and tuna fishing.

  • Living with our environment in a sustainable way? How Akamai!

  • […] strategy usually involves the designation of MPAs, which take a long time to designate and requires strict enforcement for the MPAs to succeed; […]

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