Kona's Billfish Tournament
A Reminder to Plan for Future

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (8/01/98)
By Ray Pendleton

There is more to this year's Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament than just catching fish.

Not only has that world-famous angling competition in Kailua-Kona begun celebrating its 40th anniversary this week, but it has also provided a venue for a three-day Pacific Island Gamefish Tournament Symposium.

With sponsorship from the Pacific Ocean Research Foundation and a list of other organizations that reads like a who's who of sportfishing in the Pacific, the symposium has had its focus on the importance of sportfishing to society and its consequences for gamefish conservation.

"We have been emphasizing open discussion between numerous Pacific Island experts and a diverse audience," said Dr. Marc Miller, a social anthropologist from the University of Washington's School of Marine Affairs and one of the symposium's organizers.

And, together with Dr. Charles Daxboeck, a fisheries consultant from Tahiti, they have done just that.

Throughout the Pacific basin, various island entities have either had a history of conducting gamefish tournaments, or are presently considering them for the future. Some of the former are Hawai`i, French Polynesia, Australia and New Zealand, and some of the latter are Samoa, Tonga and Belau (Palau).

By gathering representatives from these and other island groups, Miller and Daxboeck were able to successfully address three major needs faced by all of them:

o A need for a better understanding of the environmental, biological, cultural and economic impact of gamefish tournaments.

o A need for a better understanding of gamefish tournaments' role in fishery conservation and sustainability.

o A need for the implementation of a gamefish tournament system for monitoring scientific studies, standardizing statistical practices, and promoting principals of sportsmanship.

In his keynote address on Wednesday, Mike Wilson, chairman of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, underscored those needs in Hawai`i.

"As the population of the world is rising, we need to determine what is the (fisheries') maximum sustainable yield," Wilson said. "Some people think we should curtail all fishing."

Wilson went on to point out that the public needs to know that anglers really care about the fishery and, perhaps, having tag-and-release contests - as in the HIBT - is symbolic of that concern.

Through the remainder of the week, one by one, representatives from nearly all of the Pacific island entities were given time to express their views and relate the unique aspects of their individual locales.

And, seemingly too often, those representatives echoed each other by noting their pelagic fisheries have diminished from previous years.

"We've seen a decline in our fishery," said Albert Threadingham of Fiji.

"Our catch is plummeting," Gerry Davis from the Federated States of Micronesia said.

And, of course, they all are very aware that sportfishing's limited take cannot be the cause of that decline. Rather we must all look back to Wilson's statement about world population, and understand it's relationship to the demand for fish and the meeting of that demand by long-line and net fishing techniques that are so terrifyingly efficient in harvesting the world's fisheries.

Last week's Column -|- More Water Ways

Hele On