Mixed Feedback for Proposed Subsistence Fishing Area
Emotions ran high during a contentious discussion about the Community Based Subsistence Fishing Area (CBSFA) being proposed for a portion of Molokai’s norther coastline last Thursday. Organizers of the proposal say efforts began about 20 years ago to establish sustainable fishing guidelines to protect declining ocean species. Now, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is beginning a process to create an official designation for the area and gathering feedback on the proposed rules that reflect traditional fishing practices of moderate gathering and kapu periods.
While some feel the rules are needed to ensure Molokai’s resources are protected for the future, others expressed concerns that they didn’t feel involved in the process or that the rules will limit Hawaiian gathering rights.
The proposed CBSFA would extend from Ilio Point in the west, to Kaholaiki Bay in the east, or about three quarters of Molokai’s north coastline, according to the DLNR’s Russell Sparks. The area would extend out from shore one nautical mile, and would exclude commercial fishing with those boundaries, with the exception of recreational or charter operations. Other general regulations would include no night diving between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., and no scuba spearfishing. Special regulations would apply to Kawa`aloa Bay, which is considered a nursery area for fishing — no fishing, gathering or recreational activities would be allowed in the bay, with a few exceptions.
The proposed rules would provide regulations for five species: Uhu, Kumu, Kole, Moi and Ula (spiny lobster) as well as some guidelines for `Opihi and Limu gathering. Rules include bag limits and minimum and/or maximum size for some species. Sparks said some of the rules are in addition to existing state regulations, but are proposed because they aim to protect the species’ breeding populations and ensure sustainable resources into the future.
Davianna McGregor, a Ho`olehua resident and one of the proposal’s organizers, said those five species were identified during 20 years of observations at Mo`omomi as rapidly declining.
“The management plan is based on 20 years of observations and how healthy it was when we started and how healthy it is now,” she said.
No access restrictions are being proposed in addition to the existing guidelines set by each landowner in the area.
The proposal was submitted to the DLNR by Hui Malama O Mo`omomi, a volunteer community group that represents some homesteaders and subsistence fishing practitioners. The group is led by Mac Poepoe, a natural resource manager, educator and caretaker of the area, who has won statewide recognition for his traditional management methods. McGregor said the idea for a community-based subsistence area first came up in 1994, when then-governor John Waihee initiated the Molokai Subsistence Task Force to develop a map of the island’s subsistence resources and show the value of such a way of life for Molokai.
McGregor said once established, the proposal’s success would be carefully tracked, with a goal of the five key species showing healthy increases in population. Success would be based not on numbers but on having seven to 10 generations of each species in the same area, according to McGregor.
She said community members could assist with monitoring after being trained, and each year, a report would be provided to the community on the area’s progress. After five years, overall success of the rules would be assessed and an evaluation completed on what regulations would be altered based on the success, McGregor added.
A similar CBSFA state designation was recently established in Ha`ena on Kauai
Last week’s Molokai meetings — one Thursday afternoon and another in the evening — were held by DLNR with the goal of gathering community comments on the proposed rules, and were both well-attended.
“Twenty years ago, diving from Anahaki to Mo`omomi, you never had to dive down for lobster,” said CBSFA advocate and homesteader Kanoho Helm at the Thursday evening meeting. “Today, it’s not like that… I seen the decline personally. I don’t think our ancestors would like to see that… I think this plan is good for everybody.”
But many didn’t agree.
“You never going take away the Hawaiian rights with this,” said homesteader Kili Mawae. “I just no like this. [You] should go home to your business and let us do ours.”
Another community member wondered how it’s legal to make rules on Native Hawaiian gathering rights.
“I think it’s important to clarify the intent is not to take away any gathering rights, we’re trying to protect those rights,” responded DLNR Marine Law Fellow Davis Sakoda. “These rules will apply across the board, no matter who you are.”
McGregor referenced a survey conducted between 2013 and 2016 that showed 53 homestead families expressed support for the proposal while only one opposed it. But one attendee didn’t believe the numbers.
“The meetings I went to, most people didn’t support it,” he said.
Homesteader Gene Ross Davis said when DLNR came to Molokai a couple years ago, “this community didn’t accept this community based fishing area well.”
“It seems like this is a top down narrative,” he said, also referencing “exclusivity” of current Mo`omomi access. “I know you say you keep wanting to involve community, but it seems like [the rules are] already set…. My concern was, my community doesn’t know about it, how will it impact them.”
Homesteader Yama Kaholoa`a also questioned how much of the community was involved in the CBSFA proposal.
“I think everyone here is for resource management,” he said. “I am for resource management, but how are we going to manage it, that’s the question…. [Hui Malama O Mo`omomi] is not the ‘community.’ We all want to protect what we have but we don’t it taken away from us.”
The meeting became heated, with some expressing anger at the proposal.
Yet advocates said the purpose of the rules is to preserve the limited resources for future generations.
“When you don’t have rules in place to follow, you not going leave any legacy, and that is what is at stake,” said Molokai’s Malia Akutagawa, a professor at UH Law School. “In this room we are not the enemies of each other…. When you look at the rules, you have to think of your mo`opuna not yet born yet. That’s what our kupuna did. Remember that, because you have a very sacred duty.”
DLNR officials stressed that it is important to offer comments on the proposed rules.
“[DLNR has] received the management plan but they really want to hear from you,” said Dawn Chang, the meetings’ facilitator. “I cannot emphasize enough how important your comments are…. There are proposed regulations and if you don’t think these rules reflect the way you were raised, you should say that. It’s about providing comments…. This is not a done deal.”
Sakoda said the Molokai meetings precede the official, state-mandated rule-making process for the CBSFA, which will also include additional public hearings on Molokai.
Comment sheets were provided to attendees but feedback can also be emailed to DLNR.Aquatics@hawaii.gov or mailed to Division of Aquatic Resources, 1151 Punchbowl St. Room 300, Honolulu, HI 96813. Written comments must be submitted by March 28.
To read the full version of the proposal, visit dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar/files/2017/02/Moomomi_CBSFA_Full_Proposal.pdf