Aquatic Resources 2021 Legislative Wrap-up

The 2021 legislative session was a busy one for the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR).  We tracked 95 bills,17 of which were eventually passed and sent on to the governor for signature. The governor has until July 11 to sign or veto the bills; if he does neither, a bill becomes law without his signature.

DAR submitted eight administrative bills, seven of which passed. They include the following.

Commercial Marine Vessel Licenses (CMVL).  HB1016
This bill has been introduced several times over the past few years, and finally made it through. It allows the Department of Land and Natural Resource (DLNR) to issue a single CMVL which would satisfy the commercial license requirement for all persons aboard a vessel, so each individual would no longer have to get a commercial marine license (CML). All vessels are eligible. Longline vessels would be required to report certain crew information to DLNR. It also clarifies that fishing charter services must obtain a CML (if shore-based) or CMVL (if vessel-based). Rules and fees would be established through administrative rules.

Crustaceans. HB1017
DAR has been trying for several years to get this measure passed. It repeals the statute which prohibits the taking or killing of female spiny lobsters, Kona crabs, and Samoan crabs. In preparation for this measure, an administrative rule was earlier adopted which mirrored the statute. With the statute repealed, DAR can modify crustacean regulations as needed through the administrative rule process. There is no change to regulations yet, but DAR plansto go through the rulemaking process to allow take of female Kona crabs.

Lay net permits. HB1018
Authorizes DLNR to adopt rules to establish a lay net permit for use or possession. At the present time, lay nets must be registered, but the registration is a one-time event. An annual permit requirement would enable DLNR to withhold or revoke the permit of a net violator, creating an incentive for compliance with rules.

Ocean stewardship special fund; user fee.  HB1019
Establishes an Ocean Stewardship Special Fund and User Fee. Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) Commercial Use Permit holders would collect a one dollar per head fee from each passenger or customer. That money would be transferred to DAR’s special fund, and used for management measures intended to conserve, restore, and enhance marine resources. Tour operators would be involved in discussions about how the funds are used. Collection of the fee would start January 1, 2024, and the act would sunset five years later. It could be extended if proven to work well.

Natural resource rules; adaptive management.  HB1020
Authorizes the Board of Land and Natural Resource (BLNR) to temporarily adopt, amend, and repeal certain natural resource rules by formal action at a public meeting if BLNR finds it necessary to implement effective and adaptive management measures in response to rapidly changing resource conditions. Could be applied to size and bag limits, closed seasons, and gear restrictions when needed in extraordinary situations. The act would become effective October 1, 2021.

Natural resource inspection.  HB1022
This bill was part of the administrative package submitted by the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE). It authorizes DOCARE officers to inspect coolers or other containers which could carry regulated aquatic life.

Nonresident recreational marine fishing license.  HB1023
Establishes a recreational marine fishing license requirement for nonresidents of Hawai‘i. Any nonresident fishing in the ocean would need to have a license, including guests on a boat. Fees would be $20 for a one-day license, $40 for seven days, and $70 for an annual license. Children under 15 and active duty military and their families would be exempt. Revenues would go to the state for use in marine fisheries management.

Aquatic life and wildlife advisory committees; repeal.  HB1030
Repeals the 1985 statute that created aquatic life and wildlife advisory committees for each county. The committees have not met in years.

In addition to the above administrative bills, a number of other bills were introduced which pertained to aquatic resources. These are a few.

Protection of sharks. HB553
Bills to prohibit the take of sharks have been around for the past seven years. The last measure to pass the legislature involved only the protection of rays, after sharks were removed. This bill would prohibit the taking of sharks in state waters, and authorizes DLNR to adopt rules to implement the measure. Exemptions would apply for permitted activities (e.g. scientific research), protection of public safety, and self-defense or defense of others. The act would become effective January 1, 2022.

Sport fish (bass). SB1313
Requires DAR to establish a pilot project to restock the Wahiawā Public Fishing Area with northern largemouth bass, butterfly peacock bass (tucunare), or both by January 1, 2023, provided that the Board of Agriculture places both species on the list of restricted animals that require a permit for import and possession. The idea is to increase genetic variability of these species within the Wahiawā reservoir.

Special license plates. SB772
Authorizes the issuance of special license plates with designs relating to forest and ocean conservation. Revenues ($100-200 per plate) will be deposited in special funds for forest stewardship and beach restoration.

For more information on any of these bills, please visit the legislative website and use its search features. As bills are signed into law, information will be posted in the announcements section on the homepage of this website.