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No Fish, Just Paddle

Community Contributed by `Aha Ki`ole o Molokai

The Aha Ki`ole of Molokai are looking into the issue of the overfishing of Molokai coastal resources by significant numbers of outer-island boats that come for the purpose of escorting canoe paddlers and paddle-boarders.  “We have heard the concerns and complaints of our members and our island residents who have witnessed numerous occasions where escort boat crews came fully equipped with fishing gear, days prior to each event in order to bring in a lucrative catch, in addition to the fees they received by escorting.  When you multiply the fishing take of each escort by 100-200 boats, and multiply that amount by the growing number of events that happens each year, you’re looking at a serious number of fish stock being depleted at one time,” said Aha Ki`ole resource committee po`o Mac Poepoe.

Over the past several years, the symptoms of overfishing on Molokai have become increasingly apparent, where fish, lobster, he`e, `opihi and other species have shown a steady downturn in population size, number of species reaching maturity and spawning opportunities.  In response to the call for better management, the Molokai fishing community has initiated a growing effort in the practice of “malama ‘aina’” and “pono fishing.” “Many Molokai islanders rely on fishing for subsistence.  If we don’t take care of what we have, we’ll end up like the other islands,” warns Walter Ritte.

Molokai’s Conservation Efforts
Last year, an attempt was made by several islanders to inform the canoe paddling association of the escort boat fishing problem. “If Molokai people are trying to fish more pono, we would like to know that we’re being respected,” said Vanda Hanakahi, po`o of the ‘Aha Ki`ole.   “We support races as one of our statewide sporting activities, but somehow the purpose has been changed into providing a fishing opportunity that depletes our reef areas.” 

The `Aha Ki`ole Plan…
• In order to give fair consideration to both racing event participants and the Molokai people, we will be seeking a resolution that allows for the traditional races as well as new races to continue, with the added safeguard of incorporating necessary konohiki practices that would prevent a scarcity of any reef and coastal species through overfishing.

• We would like to encourage our own Molokai ocean sport associations to take a leadership role and the kuleana of hosting the events with sensitivity to island resources and residents’ concerns.

•  Respect for spawning periods and kapu areas that enable healthy reproduction of species could become new but vital mainstays for planning any ocean events, and allow for the regular replenishment of ocean species.

• Specific regulations would help delineate the terms of event participation, and permits could help identify those participating appropriately in ocean events.  The `Aha Ki`ole may be seeking legislation to assist in the definition and enforcement of the reef management plan in regard to ocean sport activities.

• The `Aha Ki`ole would like to have cooperative and respectful relationships with the canoe and paddle-board racing associations, as well as other ocean sport event organizers.

• The `Aha Ki`ole will be conducting a survey of its members regarding this issue.  All others interested in responding please call Walter and Loretta at 567-9415 or `Opu`ulani at 646-0828.

Mahalo, e Molokai.

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