Magic bait, for me is the last bait that caught me an Ulua, but, for many of my friends it’s Oama. The little goats, papio candy and the reason that once a year all the stores run out of aerators. Every year, August there abouts, (as early as April or late as October) the schools of juvenile Weke appear near shore on all the Hawaiian islands. Fishermen and women flock to their favorite spots to catch Oama for consumption or for bait for papio. Newbees or just plain lazy ones ask “Where dey stay?”. In this day of the internet and smartphone technology the word gets around quickly and the schools get pounded. All part of the game, good or bad, unfortunately the fish populations don’t increase proportionately with the increase of fishermen and we see smaller “per angler” counts being caught each year. What has increased despite increased awareness in the community is poaching. Illegal throw nets and night trapping have become a common occurrence because truthfully, there is no active enforcement taking place. Brazen poachers perform their illegal craft in front of beach goers with no conscience what so ever!
So, where do we go from here? Many foolishly think that the fish will always be there. “How?” I ask, “What makes you think that?” I’m no expert, I have no college degree, I don’t even read all the information the real experts put out there to keep us all informed. What I do know is if we continue in this mindless direction of “Fish now, worry later” future generations will only have the stories handed down by their elders.
When Cook first landed in the Hawaiian islands for the first time over two centuries ago the Hawaiians already had serious concerns about conserving the oceans resources and many very focused restrictions (kapu) designed to keep harvesting of these resources in check. Contrary to the popular belief that the over throw of the Hawaiian Kingdom was the cause of the loss of this forward thinking, in truth it was the son of Kamehameha I, Liholiho (Kamehameha II) that abolished kapu. This is not to say that the kapu system was without fault, but, rather that the greater loss was the understanding that the then abundant resource was not infinite.
So, what’s the next step? I’d say little steps for the most part, as long as they are in the correct direction forward. Perhaps we should start with our keiki, instead of teaching them to keep everything they catch, teach them to appreciate catch and release. To let the little fish live!!