News from Aitutaki (that’s in the Cook Islands)

There’s some news about a bonefish management program coming out.

This is an excerpt from the Cook Island News – January 22, 2011

The MMR hopes that the management plan will both sustain the bonefish population and provide incentives for those who catch bonefish for a living to hang up their nets.

It aims to encourage local “netters” to become bonefishing guides, for whose services tourists will pay hundreds of dollars a day – giving Aitutaki the potential to market itself as a sport bonefishing destinations.

“We cannot market our bonefishery for sports-fishing until we have put in place measures to ensure that we have sustainable stocks,” (Ben) Ponia said.

The management plan aims to ban netting in areas where bonefish aggregate; to prohibit the sale or export of bonefish; and to control the number of anglers allowed in certain areas.  It stipulates that all guides are licensed and accredited through MMR and all anglers purchase a license before fishing.

MMR expects that the bonefishery can sustain at least six guides under the new plan, and will support converted net fisherman – a scheme to draw local netters away from hooking bonefish.

That sounds nice… doesn’t it?  There are still a lot of questions folks have about the plan… why anglers are being asked to pay when no one else is… that seems to be a pretty good question.  Exactly how the fees would be collected and how it would work if you want to fish say, two days out of five… who can buy the license, how much they will cost and where you can buy them… ya know… the details.

I have another question that I’m trying to get answered.  The plan states that the fishery could likely support six guides that would be licensed and accredited.  A quick look at the Aitutaki Bonefishing Association (The Association page until recently had pictures of trevalley caught on plugs and 0 pictures of bonefish… it also recently stated that fly fishing was done with silk or horse hair lines… I’m glad they did some work on it) shows “members” and guess what?  There are more than six people listed there.  Someone NOT listed there and not consulted about any of this is Butch Leone… the one guy who has been actively guiding for bonefish on Aitutaki for THIRTEEN YEARS.

Now… if you are making a management plan about, oh, let’s say “bonefish,” I think it would make sense… really good sense, to involve the guy who pretty much pioneered bonefishing on Aitutaki.  That would seem like “Step 1” in the playbook.

That is not how this is playing out.

Six spots available.  A stated preference to convert netters to guides.  Lots of netters.

Now, I could be way off base on this… I could be totally wrong… no one has told me this is going to happen… no one has even told me they think this might be the outcome… however… I am starting to wonder if Butch, ya know… the guy who pioneered bonefishing on Aitutaki… I’m wondering if Butch is going to end up with one of those six “licensed and accredited” bonefish guide slots.

I hope I’m wrong.

I really hope I’m wrong.  Butch has been a champion for Aitutaki bonefish for a long time.  It would be ironic (maddeningly so) for the locals to push him out in the name of saving the fish he’s been advocating for these past 13 years.

Nice fish Butch

Butch with a nice Aitutaki Bonefish

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4 comments

  1. Aitutakiflyfish

    I can only hope everything works out also. It’s a start but there is along way to go with this “plan of action” by MMR. I did get to tag my first bonefish the other day. With a tagging program we can actually get hard data on our fish and not just what some people say. Then we can understand their habits amd movements better to develope a comprehensive plan put together with facts. Thanks for the Aitutaki exposure.

  2. You bet Butch. Hope my read on that whole situation is wrong.

  3. Someone is just trying to fatten their wallet again such as when Japan “paid-off” Crooked Aitutaki government officials after convincing them to join the IWC (International Whaling Commission) and then subsiquently vote in Japans favor regarding increased whale quotas.

  4. Pol’tics suck no matter where you go.

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