Major Changes Ahead for
Kona Billfish Association

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (8/22/98)
By Ray Pendleton

I once read an article about how major changes in a person's life tend to cause emotional trauma. It went on to say, to avoid being over-stressed, we should attempt to limit the number of such changes to as few as possible at one time.

Now, I wouldn't know if that same advice applies to organizations, but if so, then the Hawaiian International Billfish Association (HIBA) and its annual fishing tournaments (98 HIBT) in Kailua-Kona may be flirting with a collective stress-out.

First, I received word from Mike Nelson, executive director of the HIBA, that he and the association will part company as of October 1, after five years of his operating and promoting the association and its tournaments.

Still, Nelson says he will continue his relationship with the Pacific Ocean Research Foundation (PORF), the HIBA's non-profit scientific branch.

"I'm not stepping away from the world of big game fishing, either," Nelson said. "Next year we will be producing two new international-format tournaments in Kona."

The first tournament will be a "Light-Tackle Shootout," scheduled for July 10 - 13, 1999. It will limit tackle to between 12- and 30-pound test, and it will be an all-species, double elimination event.

Along with being a benefit event for the junior anglers of the International Game Fish Association, the light-tackle tournament will also be video-taped for ESPN by TV personality and Kona skipper, Captain Norm Isaacs.

The second event on Nelson's calendar, scheduled for July 15 - 18, 1999, will be " Hawaii's World Billfish Challenge."

Featuring heavy tackle requirements - 80- and 130-pound test - and a focus on tag-and-release instead of boating and weighing fish, this tournament should have a minimal impact on Hawaii's fisheries, as has been the case with the HIBT for a number of years.

"This event will benefit the PORF and another soon-to-be-announced Hawaiian charity," Nelson said.

Nelson anticipates a field of some 50 teams will pay an entry fee starting at $5,000 per four-person team, and they can look forward to payouts of over $200,000 for each event.

Now, on top of losing its executive director, the HIBA's venerable Peter Fithian has announced his retirement as the chairman.

As the only surviving founder of the 40-year-old association and its tournaments, Fithian will now be stepping down from his active leadership role and, according to HIBA governor Paul Kendall, will be solely referred to as "Founder" of the association.

Filling Fithian's very large shoes in the HIBA will be Honolulu business executive Roy Morioka, who will be both its chairman and chief executive officer. Morioka has been with the HIBA for more than 20 years and the association's president for several years.

Succeeding Morioka as the HIBA president will be Thomas "Tommy" Rietow, a former Kona resident and now a business executive from Maui.

With all of its changes in leadership, I think we can understand if a certain amount of stress is exhibited by the HIBA in the coming months.

But, an old saying should also be kept in mind: There is nothing permanent except change.

So, even with the HIBA's changes, we will look forward to an exciting 41st anniversary of the HIBT next year.

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