The state Department of Land and Natural Resources announced this week the pawning season is here for ‘ama‘ama (striped mullet), which puts the popular nearshore fish off-limits from December through March.
“‘Ama‘ama are about to enter their peak spawning season, which increases their vulnerability to fishing pressure,” said Bruce Anderson, DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources administrator. “The annual winter closure is designed to help the fish reproduce successfully and protect the species from overfishing.”
‘Ama‘ama was one of the most important fish species in traditional Hawaiian culture. Young fish 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 added, 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 pertaining to the other two species: uouoa (sharp-nose mullet), which is native, and kanda (summer or Marquesan mullet), which is introduced. Differences between the species can be seen at https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar/files/2016/11/mullet_handout_estuaries.pdf.
During the open season, the minimum size for ‘ama‘ama is 11 inches (fork length), and a bag limit of ten per day applies in Hilo Bay only. The season will reopen April 1.
“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 seasonal violations. The criminal penalty is a petty misdemeanor punishable by fines of up to $500 per violation and/or 30 days in jail. There is no per specimen fine. First offense civil penalties are up to $1,000 per specimen and $1,000 per violation.
Copies of statewide fishing regulations for ‘ama‘ama and all other marine species are available in Honolulu at the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources office, 1151 Punchbowl St., Room 330, and at all neighbor island DAR offices. Fishing regulations can also be found on the DAR 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).