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Molokai Councils Prep for State Puwalu

After years of planning, Molokai’s `Aha Moku councils are finally getting a say in natural resource management.

Last Saturday, representatives from Molokai’s various moku, or districts, met in preparation for a statewide puwalu, or meeting, of leaders next month on Oahu. Their discussion focused on how to best protect natural resources, incorporating traditional practices with current management.

This is the first time Molokai’s moku representatives have officially come together to share ideas on natural resources management, according to Mac Poepoe, who is helping lead the organizing effort here.

“This idea is something that all the people can agree with,” said Poepoe. He estimated that a third of Saturday’s 60-some participants were new to the process.

The meeting was hosted by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WesPac), a federal agency that has played a supporting role in organizing `Aha Moku councils statewide. WesPac manages offshore fisheries throughout the Pacific and routinely looks to local communities for input.

“We’re coming to you to ask us how we can improve the process,” said Charles Kaaiai, WesPac’s indigenous program coordinator.

Added Vanda Hanakahi, chair of state `Aha Kiole Advisory Committee and Molokai’s representative, “Who knows fishing best but the fisherman? Who know farming best but the farmer? That was the thinking behind this puwalu.”

This was the last in a series of meetings WesPac has hosted around the state. Information collected at the meetings will be presented at the Oahu meeting Nov. 19-20, as well as to the state legislature. Poepoe said about 20 Molokai residents will be attending the Oahu meeting – at least one representative from each of the island’s six moku.

“The reality is Molokai has been forgotten. We’ve been pushed aside,” Poepoe said. “Now, people have started to wake up and say, ‘We live here. We need our share in decision making, too.’”

`Aha Moku councils were part of ancient Hawaiians’ land management system. Islands were divided into moku, evenly distributing resources to allow for self-sufficient communities.

In 2007, state legislators passed a law calling for the creation of `Aha Moku councils to help manage Hawaii’s natural resources, drawing on community involvement and practices passed down by kupuna.

“There’s a culture that’s been doing this for centuries, and they got it right,” said Roy Morioka, a WesPac community outreach consultant.

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