IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Hawaii Lawmakers Pass Fishing Drone Ban to Gov. Ige

The increasing use of drones to cast fishing lines hundreds of yards from shore has raised safety and environmental concerns. Now fishers are waiting to see if the governor will sign the ban into law.

(TNS) — Hawaii's fishing community is waiting to hear whether Gov. David Ige will sign or veto a bill that bans the use and possession of drones for fishing in, on or near state waters.

Senate Bill 2065, which passed floor votes in the state House of Representatives and Senate on May 3, was criticized by some lawmakers as unfair to fishers.

Under the bill, drones are allowed only for "simple reconnaissance " and not for fishing. Additionally, anyone who wants to use a drone for the approved purpose would have to apply for a permit from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The increasing use of drones to cast fishing lines hundreds of yards from shore has raised safety and environmental concerns. In testimony supporting the bill, DLNR said the situation has led to more incidents of animals and ocean users getting caught in fishing lines.

The practice also has contributed to ocean debris from abandoned fishing tackle, the agency said.

During last week's floor vote, Sen. Kurt Fevella (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point ) argued that the drone ban was proposed without adequate consideration and would adversely affect subsistence fishers.

"We're banning something that is new without even trying to regulate it, " Fevella said. "I understand some of these guys don't follow the rules—they fly their line over people surfing, boats and people using the beach. ... This is the thing : We're going to ban some people now using new technology to provide food on the table for their family."

Rep. Sean Quinlan (D, Waialua-Kahuku-Waiahole ), who fishes with drones, said that when used properly, the unmanned aerial vehicles can lead to "fewer fouled lines, less lost tackle—in short ... less junk in the ocean. I would argue that if you are a responsible fisherman, drone fishing is better for the environment than traditional methods."

Fevella and Quinlan were among six lawmakers who voted against SB 2065.

Other concerns included the severity of penalties for violations, which would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $10, 000 and a year in jail.

SB 2065 would take effect immediately if it becomes law.

©2022 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.