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Reckless overharvesting leads to new regulations

By Staff | Oct 15, 2015

It’s a good thing that Maui and Oahu residents discovered an unprecedented large-scale commercial harvest of sea cucumbers earlier this year.

The species – called “the vacuum cleaners of the ocean” for their ability to scour the sea floor, removing sediments and other materials that can impact the health and resiliency of Hawaii’s coral reefs – has been decimated in other Pacific islands and U.S. coastal states due to the kind of reckless overfishing seen here.

The state was stunned to learn that sea cucumbers were being taken by the truckload, and that there is a market for these odd creatures around the world.

Credit the state for promptly stepping in, shutting down the harvesting operations and enacting a 120-day ban (starting June 26) on taking any species of sea cucumber from Hawaii state waters.

Now we have arrived at the next step. The state Division of Aquatic Resources last week announced that it will hold public hearings in November to discuss a new rule to permanently regulate sea cucumber harvesting in state waters. Go to the DAR website at dlnr.hawaii.gov/DAR (under the “Announcements” section) to review the rule.

According to the state, the proposed new rule will provide more long-term protection of sea cucumbers. It prohibits their harvest for commercial consumption purposes but allows limited take for personal, non-commercial use.

A limited season for commercial aquarium harvest of two species of sea cucumbers will be offered on Oahu only.

The Maui hearing is slated for Monday, Nov. 9, at Lihikai School in Kahului from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Residents are encouraged to attend to provide information and comments for the DLNR to consider.

People shouldn’t have to be told not to overfish and crush a species. The state handled this case perfectly.