New state bills signed into law for World Oceans Day

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Gene Flick steps back to cast a line into Hilo Bay while fishing near the Isles at Liliuokalani Park and Gardens in Hilo.

Visitors to Hawaii will now need a license to fish recreationally under legislation Gov. David Ige has signed into law.

House Bill 1023 was one of nine new ocean-related bills Ige on Tuesday signed into law in commemoration of World Oceans Day. The measures add new powers to the Department of Land and Natural Resources to protect the state’s oceans and marine life.

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HB 1023, which took effect immediately upon signing, requires out-of-state visitors to obtain a license before engaging in recreational fishing.

A one-day license will cost $20, a week-long license will cost $40 and an annual license will cost $70.

Licenses will not be required for children 15 and younger or active military, spouses and children.

DLNR chairwoman Suzanne Case said at a news conference following the signing ceremony that the new policy is estimated to raise about $15 million a 15-year period.

Those revenues will go into a special fund for sport fish management.

North and South Kohala Rep. David Tarnas said the law imposes the state’s first marine recreational fishing license system and will be supported by other bills that Ige passed Tuesday that allocate additional resources and enforcement authorities to the DLNR.

One of those bills was House Bill 1019, which will impose a $1 fee per passenger or customer of a commercial vessel beginning in 2024, which will be deposited in a newly created Ocean Stewardship Special Fund.

That fund will be used to carry out conservation, restoration, maintenance and other projects within the state’s oceans.

Similarly, Senate Bill 772 will allow the state to issue commemorative license plates for forest and ocean conservation in order to generate further funds toward a Beach Restoration Special Fund.

“Hundreds of millions of visitors have enjoyed our magnificent ocean resources for decades without directly contributing to the management and protection of them,” Case said. “This new fund provides a framework to collect fees from visitors who use our waters.”

Case also praised House Bill 1022, which allows DLNR officers to temporarily detain any person who the officer reasonably suspects of fishing or hunting regulated species, and establishes fines of up to $3,000 per violation.

“It’s really important to allow our enforcement officers to actually enforce our laws,” Case said. “We are probably the last state in the country to have administrative inspections. We’ve always had criminal inspections, but we just need to be able to check that everyone’s complying with the law.”

Another bill, House Bill 1020, allows the DLNR to make rapid adjustments to rules such as bag limits in response to changing environmental factors, like a coral bleaching event, Case said.

Other bills Ige passed Tuesday include House Bill 1016, which allows the DLNR to issue a single commercial marine vessel license for all people aboard the vessel, and House Bill 1018, which authorizes the DLNR to establish a permitting process for the use of lay nets.

The final two bills concerned the protection of specific species: House Bill 553 prohibits the intentional capturing, entangling or killing of a shark in state waters under penalty of fines of up to $10,000.

On the other hand, House Bill 1017 repeals a law that prohibits the killing of female spiny lobsters, Kona and Samoan crabs, paving the way for the DLNR to establish rules allowing for the controlled harvesting of those species.

Ige said the bills collectively allow the state to take a firmer hand in preserving the oceans, particularly in the face of imminent climate-change-fueled ecological collapse.

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“This is a great day for the ocean,” Case said. “I share Gov. Ige’s concern for the ocean, and particularly the climate change impacts and the need to act now. We’re watching our coral reefs disappear after repeated coral bleaching events, we see our shorelines inundated by high tides and storm surges washing away our sandy beaches, more frequent and severe storm events…and our near-shore systems in Hawaii are threatened by illegal and unsustainable fishing practices, invasive species, sewage and land-based pollution.”

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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