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Can a CBSFA Bring Us Together?

Opinion By Eric Co

To support a Community-based Subsistence Fishing Area (CBSFA) at Mo’omomi for me is not an effort to disrespect those who oppose it. Despite the issues, we are still neighbors, friends, and family who all want to do right by this island, even if we disagree on the right way to do it.

Especially now, in this heightened time of vulnerability and uncertainty, we recognize how reliant we are on our resources. Our fisheries in particular are Hawaii’s greatest source of protein. This is an important moment to consider how we will ensure their sustainability now and for future generations. While there are many challenges ahead—more pandemics, natural disasters— knowing that we can still feed ourselves when they come doesn’t have to be one of them. A Mo‘omomi CBSFA has the potential to provide more fish for Molokai people for generations to come.

For years, our community has felt the need to take the law into their own hands to protect Molokai’s natural resources, bringing risk and even imprisonment. Ironically, the CBSFA (HRS 188-22.6) legislation was created for Mo‘omomi back in 1992 for the expressed purpose of protecting and reaffirming fishing practices customarily and traditionally exercised for Native Hawaiian subsistence, culture and religion. The intention of this statute is to move the State away from ineffective one-size-fits-all regulations towards indigenous place-based co-governance and self-determination of resources.

Over the past few years, there have been several on-island opportunities for people to inform what the rules should be for Mo‘omomi, forming the basis of what is being considered for public hearing. This is not the State dictating the rules. Community voice has been and will continue to be the driver of this process. In Haʻena, where the first CBSFA was established in 2015, we see that this community-driven process has resulted in bigger and more fish.

We sit between the most populated and fastest growing islands in Hawaii. And while the community-based rules would not be a way to prevent people from coming to Mo‘omomi to fish, they could be a way to educate people on how to do so more sustainably. Because when they would come to fish at Mo‘omomi, they would have to fish like you do.

I do not seek agreement, only understanding. Just as it is understandable that others do not want this due to concerns for their right to fish or wariness of the State. But we can disagree with respect and aloha. We can question each other’s positions without questioning each other’s integrity. We can assume best intentions of each other for this island. Enough with the conspiracy theories. Sailing aboard Hokule’a has taught me a valuable lesson: on a tiny canoe in the middle of a vast ocean, how we care for that space is a direct reflection of how we care for each other — He wa‘a he moku, he moku he wa‘a.

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