Fish declared off-limits to fishers until March

The ‘ama‘ama, or striped mullet, will be off-limits to fishermen from Friday through March, spawning season for the popular fish. State Department of Land and Natural Resources photo

The ‘ama‘ama, or striped mullet, will be off-limits to fishermen from Friday through March, spawning season for the popular fish. State Department of Land and Natural Resources photo

The Maui News

The popular ‘ama’ama, or striped mullet, will be off-limits to fishermen from Friday through March during its spawning season, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources has announced.

“During this time, they congregate in large numbers. This increases their vulnerability to fishing pressure,” said Bruce Anderson, DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources administrator. “Protecting ‘ama’ama while they are spawning is done to enhance their reproductive success and conserve fishing.”

The ‘ama’ama is one of the most important fish species in traditional Hawaiian culture, the DLNR news release said. Juveniles, or pua ‘ama’ama, were caught in nets along the shoreline, then raised in the many fishponds throughout the islands. After being fattened in the fishponds, they were harvested and eaten raw with seaweed or wrapped in ti or ginger leaves and broiled or baked.

There are three species of mullet in Hawaiian waters, but the closed season applies only to the striped mullet ‘ama’ama. There are no regulations on the other two species — uouoa, which is native, and kanda, summer or Marquesan mullet, which is introduced. 

Differences between the species can be seen at dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar/files/2016/11/mullet_handout_estuaries.pdf.

“We ask the public’s compliance with the closed season,” Anderson said. “While it’s DLNR’s job to protect our marine resources, everyone shares in the responsibility to take care of important fish species like ‘ama’ama to ensure healthy populations into the future.”

There are two kinds of penalties, criminal and civil, for rule violations. The criminal penalty is a petty misdemeanor punishable by fines of up to $500 per violation and/or 30 days in jail, with no per specimen fine. First-offense civil penalties are up to $1,000 per specimen and $1,000 per violation. 

During the open season, the minimum size for ‘ama’ama is 11 inches (fork length), and a bag limit of 10 per day applies in Hilo Bay on the Big Island only.

Copies of statewide fishing regulations for ‘ama’ama and all other marine species are at all Division of Aquatic Resources offices and most fishing supply stores. Fishing regulations also can be found on the division’s website at dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar. 

To report violations of fish catch size or net use, call the DLNR enforcement hotline at (808) 643-DLNR (643-3567) or use the DLNR 411 Tip app.

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