Avid spearfishermen across the isles received their mission in the summer of 2008, and as stewards of the ocean that has given them so much over time, they chose to accept it. Their mission: to eradicate invasive fish and target introduced species from our reefs, or in other words, roi are “Wanted: Dead Not Alive,” as the competition slogan asserts.
Roi (peacock grouper), an ugly and aggressive fish, will gorge itself on young reef fish that are traditionally caught and eaten by humans. Invasive fish such as the to‘au (blacktail snapper) and ta‘ape (blue-line snapper), which are also hunted, are not as prevalent or easily caught as roi.
Roi are considered “predators of indigenous reef fish,” as one of these “bad” fish possesses the ability to eat up to 146 “good” fish each year. Roi are also at high risk as carriers of the ciguatera toxin that causes severe illness in some humans.
Pesky predator. Roi have a nasty habit of eating young reef fish native to our Hawaiian waters, such as the oama seen here in this roi’s mouth.
Photo courtesy County of Maui
The concept of “Roi Roundup” began as a way to raise funds for Maui divers who hoped to participate in spearfishing contests on the Mainland. But as they witnessed the decline of reef fish stocks, the roundup turned into a conservation movement that targets invasive species—an idea originally brought to surface by the late Sean Stodelle, a diver and reef conservationist. It has now turned into a vast team effort that has put Maui County on the map in more ways than one regarding ocean preservation.
“Roi Roundup is not just a spearfishing tournament,” said local fisherman Darrell Tanaka—aka “Darrell the Roi Hunter”—in an interview with the Maui Weekly last December. “It has evolved into a movement of conservation.”
Thirty-seven teams of “conservation representatives”—divers and spearfishermenfrom from across the state—competed in the 2010 Roi Roundup Invasive Species Dive Tournament within Maui’s West Side waters in August, then headed to the Hard Rock Café Lahaina to weigh-in and celebrate their good deeds. (See sidebar for results.)
Tanaka, a lifelong fisherman who supports sustainable and responsible fishing practices, has played a vital role as one of Roi Roundup’s initial organizers. He helped orchestrate the six eradication dive tournaments held since the movement’s birth in July 2008.
He extends endless gratitude to the hard work of his fellow Maui Roi Roundup Committee members, including his wife Jackie, Brian and Janice Yoshikawa of Maui Sporting Goods, Stuart Funk-d’Egnuff of Tri-Isle Resource and Conservation, and Mayor Charmaine Tavares’ administration, including the endless dedication of Maui County Environmental Coordinator Kuhea Paracuelles.
“It’s been exciting to see this public partnership form,” said Sen. Roz Baker, another tournament advocate. “We’re influencing other islands to step up and do the same for the reefs, and it’s wonderful.” The “Roundup” movement is indeed contagious, with successful tournaments being held on Hawai‘i Island, O‘ahu, Moloka‘i and Kaua‘i. Funds from recent Maui tourney will be used to support inter-island roundups.
“We’re doing something positive for the reef, and Maui’s legacy will live on through the efforts,” said Brian. “And, you divers can look back proudly one day and say, ‘I was a part of this.’”
Roi totals from the August tournament indicated 39,566 native fish may be saved from roi predation over the next year.
To get involved in the next tournament or one of the divers’ Kill Roi Days on Maui, email firstname.lastname@example.org.