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Addressing Overfishing

Community Contributed

By `Aha Kiole O Molokai Members

Since statehood, the people of Molokai have relied on state government to manage Molokaiʻs ocean resources. We are currently witnessing profound shortagesin our subsistence gathering sources, which island families rely heavily on. We have fewer income opportunities and higher costs of living than most of the other islands.

From the early 90s, an effort to slow down the noticeable losses from our once rich ecosystems was begun. Management by the DLNR has not yielded positive outcomes in terms of maintaining sustainable and healthy nearshore fisheries.

Out of necessity and concern for our families, Molokai has independently generated its own island-wide conservation effort.  We have adopted traditional Hawaiian management strategies because of the proven effectiveness of these methodologies. In a Community Based Subsistence Fishing Area (CBFSA) designation proposal for our entire Northwest side, Pala`au Moku residents are working to come up with best practices designed to manage their area intelligently. Increasingly, people have joined the campaign. We have spread the word about how much and when to take for ecosystem survival. Our efforts have taken root, and with a few exceptions, Molokai has an understanding of fishing pono.

Because of this collective effort, our residents understood the need to take a huge step back. We watch and remind each other, point out spawning seasons, throwing back egg-laying females and the bigger reproductive staged fish. We catch and eat low population fish sparingly. We no longer advocate selling `opihi. We’ve had to manage this unprecedented paradigm shift on our own, not only without government help, but often with administrative roadblocks.

One of those roadblocks is the relentless usage of our nearshore resources by other-island commercial fishermen who are not aware of our conservation effort. Watching others help themselves indiscriminately to what Molokai has conscientiously elected to save for fishery replenishment has brought about feelings of extreme frustration. Subsistence fishermen have watched helplessly as the most threatened species are hauled off in frightening numbers that guarantee depletion. This issue has resulted in a very unfortunate circumstance in which our island residents, pushed to the limit, made choices that hurt others, themselves and their own families. We would like to ask those handling this pilikia to understand the whole circumstances in their deliberations and findings.

Displacing the konohiki management system, state laws extending the right to fish in any area were created when resources were still plentiful. Clearly, this is no longer the case. The reason non-residents are making trips to our shorelines is because poor management and unrestrained free enterprise have caused unrecoverable losses in their own areas. The people of Molokai are trying to address resource shortage issues communally, but cannot do so in a bubble.

Molokai residents do not want to be at risk while we work so hard to fix what is broken. We are not in favor of people having to take the law into their own hands. We are expecting this situation to bring about much needed acknowledgement from the state:  Your support of our efforts to protect our no longer plentiful resources is long overdue. Please step forward and work with our island so no more of our families hurt by these kinds of occurrences.

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