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Molokai Fights to Protect Its Fishing Lifestyle

Community Contributed by Walter Ritte

For the past 15 years Molokai has been seriously trying to stop the decline of it’s near shore fisheries. In 1994 Governor John Waihe’e created the Governors Molokai Subsistence Task Force, which officially recognized the importance of the subsistence economy on Molokai. The task force found that up to 38 percent of our food consumption on Molokai came from gathering in the ocean and on the land. The task force identified three major problems, 1) Off-island people who take to much, 2) Taking of undersized juveniles and 3) Lack of access.

The Molokai Aha Kiole has been working for months with WESPAC (Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council), an arm of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in a state wide effort to bring management over our resources down to the local level.

Through state wide meetings, each island has been charged to present their three top issues. The Molokai Aha Kiole presented their top two issues on Friday Sept. 23 to WESPAC. First, the need to lift the federal ban on the Hawaiian Green Turtle to allow for traditional subsistence use, and second, the need to stop the practice of off island escort boats raiding our shorelines during canoe races and other Molokai to Oahu and Maui to Molokai races.

Five years of talks with the Canoe Racing Associations have proven no meaningful results. The issue is alarmingly headed to confrontational solutions.  

Molokai residence have taken it upon themselves to monitor and patrol the coast line to “educate” the escort boats and letters have been sent out to explain “nicely” the concerns of the subsistence users of our coastal fisheries. We hope the State and Federal Governments will help resolve this issue since the organizers of these races do not want to recognize their “Kuleana” when they come to Molokai to race. 

Subsistence use of our near shore fisheries is not a matter of recreational use, it is a matter of survival. 


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