Fishing net bill heads back to Senate

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THE five-hour House session last week resulted in the passage of a number of measures, including Senate Bill 21-24, which pertains to the use of surround nets and gill nets in the Third Senatorial District.

Authored by Sen. Vinnie Sablan, the bill proposed authorizing the use of surround nets, or chenchulun umesugon, during big-eyed scad, or atulai, seasonal runs for noncommercial use.

A substitute bill was introduced by Rep. Roman Benavente to include the authorized use of gill nets, or tekking, as well, also during seasonal runs, but for any fish, between the hours of 5 a.m. and 6 p.m.


Sen. Vinnie Sablan, right, looks on during a recent public hearing conducted in the Senate chamber. Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

The bill limits the net mesh size to no less than 1.5 inches, and also requires the Department of Lands and Natural Resources to promulgate regulations on the use of these nets.

It likewise requires the department to issue permits, designate season runs and permitted locations, and limit the total catch weight to no more than 300 pounds for a maximum of five runs per year.

The reporting of non-targeted fish species and total catch weight is likewise required.

Rep. Tina Sablan was opposed to the legislation, highlighting comments from the Division of Fish and Wildlife, as well as from local subsistence fishermen.

The division is concerned about the lack of capacity to enforce this legislation due to a limited number of staff.

A local subsistence fisherman, for his part, emphasized the destructive impact of the nets mentioned in the legislation, including depletion of fish within the lagoon, damage to corals, and waste that results from overcatch and bycatch.

Rep. Tina Sablan said the House substitute bill will widen the potential for abuse even further, since both surround nets and gill nets may be used all year round for seasonal runs for any fish species.

By a vote of 18-1, the bill was passed by the House and now heads back to the Senate.

Rep. Tina Sablan was the only member who voted against its passage.

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