Ahi Tournament, Fishermen's Fest
Each Has Allure for Hawai`i Folks

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (6/06/98)
By Ray Pendleton

The recent news that the organizers of the Ahi Fever in Waianae fishing tournament - scheduled for next weekend - expect to set a new Hawai`i record with 250 boat team entries brought to mind last year's tournament.

In conjunction with the very successful fishing contest, the state's Department of Land and Natural Resources and the University of Hawaii's Sea Grant Program teamed up to create what they hoped would be the first of many annual Hawaii Fishermen's Festivals.

The object of the one-day festival was to bring people of all ages and backgrounds together to teach, learn and find common ground in planning for a sustainable future for all of Hawaii's fisheries.

To accomplish its goals, the Fishermen's Festival offered many educational static exhibits, along with interactive forums, displays and contests.

All the forum topics under discussion dealt in some way with our fisheries' past, present, or future.

One gave our youth a chance to speak of their concerns, another compared our sustainability efforts to other states, and still another compared our present efforts with those of traditional Hawaiian practices.

In the last two forums, one took up the heavily debated question of recreational fishing licenses, and the other worked at defining who makes up Hawaii's fishery users, what they have in common and where they conflict.

It was no surprise that Mike Sakamoto's Penn Reel Fishing School and a poke contest judged by chef/restaurateur Sam Choy were among the most popular activities that day. But, to the DLNR's and UHSGP's credit, its booths providing information and interaction with our youth regarding marine and reef ecosystems, pollution, fishing traditions and sustainability were heavily attended as well.

Unfortunately, the public forums, although well-organized, had noticeably fewer participants than expected.

That seemed to be attributable to the fact that the very anglers the forums needed for their expertise were participating in the concurrent Ahi Fever tournament.

The simultaneous running of the Fishermen's Festival and the fishing tournament, while seemingly to be a natural pair-up, also appeared to be at cross purposes in another way. At the festival, the discussions were often about subsistence fishing and fishery conservation, while at the adjacent harbor, tons of fish were being weighed in what might be viewed by some as fishery abuse.

This year, if their plan is approved by the Board of Land and Natural Resources, the Fishermen's Festival organizers will attempt to remedy last year's glitches, primarily through scheduling.

As proposed, the second annual Hawaii Fishermen' s Festival will be held on the North Shore this year, on October 3-4 at the Alii Beach Park at the Haleiwa Small Boat Harbor.

By not holding it in conjunction with a fishing tournament, anglers will then be able to participate fully, without the distraction of competition.

The change in venue is part of a long range plan to make the festival more accessible to everyone in the state by gradually relocating it each year throughout the main Hawaiian Islands.

I am writing this a day before the DLNR makes its decision, but I can only hope that their approval is quick and unanimous. Our state will need all of the education, understanding and cooperation it can find if it is to cope with an ever increasing human population and potentially dwindling fisheries.

Last week's Column -|- More Water Ways

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