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Mixed Feedback on OHA’s Ocean Policy

By Jack Kiyonaga, Community Reporter

Office of Hawaiian Affairs representatives arrived on Molokai last week to discuss ocean management policy, with a list of set questions. Attendees had their own questions, however, and OHA staff left with a clear message from Molokai.

“No one speaks for us but ourselves,” said Mana’e lawai’a Leimana Naki. 

Molokai Kanaka spoke for themselves. They spoke of what the great expanse of ocean has meant to them and their families and their island. 

“Molokai prides itself on this balance,” said one community member referencing Molokai’s reciprocal relationship with its environment, both from a cultural perspective and a practical one, to sustain the community’s subsistence lifestyle. 

In accordance with the United Nation’s naming of 2021-30 as the Decade of the Ocean Science and Sustainable Development, OHA is aiming to create a new standard of Hawaiian ocean policy. Towards this effort, OHA is launching 10 listening sessions encompassing each Hawaiian Island to support and include Native Hawaiian voices, practices and culture into this new policy. Notably, two meetings each are scheduled for Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii, while one meeting each has been allotted for Molokai and Lanai. The feedback from the series will then be synthesized into community reports to be sent back to each island. 

Questions from OHA included “how do you define your hana, your work and kuleana…what do you see as our Waihona…what is your vision of momona?”

Molokai residents seemed especially united in their desire to disregard these premediated inquiries. They had different concerns.

For instance, where was this information going, who would have access to it? 

“Why now?” was a common refrain from Molokai residents. Why OHA, even? 

From OHA’s perspective, this tour of meetings across the Hawaiian Islands is a chance to create a policy from the people who are the most familiar and affected by ocean sustainability. However, there seemed to be a gap in what sustainability should looked like. Chief concerns for OHA included the aquarium trade, over-fishing, and prospective deep sea mining. The more than 30 Molokai attendees at the Lanikeha Community Center echoed OHA’s issues, but mainly focused on the mountains, the rivers, the reef and the people. 

“Rivers should run to the oceans. No one should touch the mountains…mauka to makai,” said Naki. 

With stories of visitors’ fishpond misuses and encroaching fishing boats from Maui and Oahu, residents conveyed to OHA officials that it is the people from Molokai who know how best to use Molokai’s resources. 

“Molokai has been protecting Molokai for a long time,” said one resident, who introduced himself as “Double O Seven” to the OHA notetaker. 

“Molokai is a special community,” agreed meeting mediator Nai’a Lewis. 

The fact that Molokai is different from other islands is one thing residents and officials seemed to agree on. 

“Molokai is still intact,” explained one community member. Its ecosystem is still largely capable of sustaining life — as opposed to other Hawaiian Islands. Residents worried that a one-plan-fits-all type policy just wouldn’t work. 

At the end of the night, Lewis summed up the sentiments of the conversation succinctly. 

“Molokai first,” she remarked. 

While no more listening sessions will take place on Molokai, residents can learn more about OHA’s Ocean Policy development and next steps at oha.org/oceanpolicy. 


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