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Managing the North Shore

Traditional fishing practices along Molokai’s north shore could soon be supported by law if a new proposal is approved by the state.

The Mo`omomi area, which provides food for Ho`olehua homesteaders through its ocean resources, is closer to receiving official state designation as a community-based subsistence fishing area (CBSFA). Conservation group Hui Malama O Mo`omomi organized the official proposal for the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR)  and has presented it at a series of meetings with fishermen, homesteaders and the public. After the group has allowed time to receive public comments and questions, they will present it to the DLNR at a public hearing.

Hui leader Mac Poepoe has worked to preserve resources around Mo`omomi for nearly 20 years, educating youth and encouraging sustainable fishing practices. Poepoe’s efforts have become a statewide example of the success of traditional management practices. The data he collected was organized into the Pono Fishing Calendar, a localized guide to fishing based on the lifecycles of fish. The calendar has inspired other communities around Hawaii to adopt a similar approach.

Poepoe said if the hui’s official proposal is approved, the traditional practices he encourages would be legally enforceable in the designated area, which encompasses the majority of Molokai’s north shore. And though the hui and community volunteers will not have authority to arrest offenders, he said they will be able to turn in violators as they oversee the area.

He also said most fishermen already abide by traditional fishing practices, but the official designation will mean those who do not will be in violation of the law, not just community standards.

“This way it’s not just me telling people what to do,” Poepoe said, adding that currently fishermen have no legal obligation to follow the suggested practices.

The formal proposal brings the area closer to having traditional fishing practices as law. Poepoe said the hui would be able to make regulations that don’t already exist, ones that are specific to the area.

One example addressed in the proposal is lobster, which has declined steadily in the area since the group began tracking resources. If their proposal is accepted, the hui could have an enforceable ban on lobster harvesting until there is a return to a sustainable level. Once that level is achieved, lobster harvesting will only be allowed by hand, trap or hook – no netting, according to the proposal.

Many of the rules under the proposal involve fishing only for subsistence, meaning for direct personal consumption or sharing. There will also be a permit system to ensure catch reporting for residents and nonresidents alike, according to the proposal document.

Volunteers from the community will be trained to monitor activities, catches and resources in the CBSFA.

“Community-based resource management in partnership with state government can promote the sustainable use of fisheries more effectively and efficiently than government rule enforcement alone,” the proposal states.

Other organizations responsible for land along Molokai’s north coast are included in the proposal as well. Mo`omomi has been an unofficial CBSFA for years, but official designation will reach from `Ilio Point on the west to Kaholaiki Bay at Pelekunu Valley, to the east. This means management responsibilities will be shared by the groups owning land within this area, including The Nature Conservancy, the Kalaupapa community, Molokai Properties, Ltd. and the Joyce Kainoa `ohana.

“This thing is pretty powerful as far as support goes,” Poepoe said. “The community sees where this is beneficial to taking care and protecting their fishing place.”

Poepoe said he wants to make sure everyone has a chance to respond to the proposal before it goes before the DLNR for the official public hearing.

“We’re doing this in our community so when the DLNR comes for a public hearing, we already have our minds made up and we know what to expect,” he said.

The DLNR will review the proposal, and eventually it must be approved by the attorney general and the governor before Molokai’s north shore receives its CBSFA designation.

Until then, the hui is working to educate residents of other areas about how to make a similar plan.

“This is a pilot for what the rest of our moku can do,” said Walter Ritte, who will host a workshop about developing a CBSFA plan through the Aha Kiole o Molokai, a traditional resource management group.

The workshop will be featured in The Dispatch’s community calendar when a date is set.

Poepoe is available for questions and comments at 646-0548. View the entire proposal: Molokai.CBSFA.3.11.13 (1)




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