Spearfishing Saves Native Species

For much of his life, Jon Barretto has spent countless hours in the water, honing his skill and love of spearfishing.

Growing up in Kapa’a, Barretto learned the ways of the outdoors from his grandfather, who was the first to put a mask and snorkel on his face.

Some 30 or so years later, Barretto is now at the top of his sport. He’s consistently swooping up the hardware at nearly every tournament he takes part in.

Barretto’s accolades over the years include representing Hawaii at

the U.S. National Championships in Rhode Island (runner-up, rookie of the year) and helping his team finish first at the 2011 Kona Coast Spearfishing Challenge.

But probably his greatest accomplishment is leading the way for the Kauai Spearfishing Challenge. He’s been the coordinator since 2004.

“In recent years, this event has focused on invasive or introduced species to Hawaii, but more so the roi,” Barretto says. “This fish was introduced to

Hawaii in 1956 as a possible food staple. Many people got sick from ciguatera poisoning, so the project failed.”

However, the fish fed off many of the state’s juvenile native species and multiplied.

“By eradicating (roi), we are hoping to help native species populations grow and donate samples to science, to hopefully derive a more affordable and reliable ciguatera test kit,” Barretto says.

The challenge isn’t only being held on the Garden Isle. In fact, a few years ago on Maui, Brian Yoshikawa and others were the first to start this type of event.

“Since then, many in the dive community have come to the realization of its importance due to the decrease in Hawaii’s native reef species,” Barretto says. “Today, there is at least one event on each island similar to Yoshikawa’s ‘Roi Round-Up.'”

Besides trying to help the state’s native reefs, this year’s tournament also will benefit Kauai’s youths. A portion of the proceeds will go to Koloa Elementary School’s special education program.

The 2011 Kaua’i Spearfishing Challenge is open to the public and will be held June 25 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Lydgate Beach Park in Kapa’a.

Participants may pick up an entry form at Seasport Divers (Poipu and Kapaa), Village Variety, Waipouli Variety, Lihue Fishing Supply and Salt Pond Country Store. You also may enter online at Seasportdivers.com. Just look for the “2011 Roi Round-Up” section.