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East Maui Nonprofit Wants to Create Protected Fishing Area

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WAILUKU — Residents in east Maui have proposed creating a protected fishing area to preserve fish, seaweed and other resources that once sustained neighboring communities.

The nonprofit Kipahulu ‘Ohana said designating waters off an area called Kipahulu Moku as a community-based subsistence fishing area would address problems like people collecting fish and seaweed out of season, people taking more than they need and the hunting of undersized specimens, The Maui News reported.

The small town of H??ena on Kauai's north shore won state permission to establish Hawaii's first community-based subsistence fishing area in 2015.

State law allows for the formation of the districts to protect fishing practices traditionally exercised by Native Hawaiians for subsistence, cultural and religious purposes. Community leaders on Molokai are also seeking to designated such an area there.

Kipahulu Moku covers about 12,000 acres (4,856 hectares) in the eastern part of Maui where families have fished, farmed and hunted for generations.

Over the past decade, Maui residents and visitors have been “overusing” Kipahulu’s resources and leaving their trash behind, furthering the need for steps to limit damage, said Kane Lind, the nonprofit's equipment manager and program assistant.

“It’s like a road that everybody drives over but nobody fixes it. Nature can’t fix itself, people have to realize it,” Lind said.

Nonprofit leaders said the most pressing issues were the unsustainable harvest of fish, seaweed and “opihi,” a mollusk that grows on rocky shorelines and is considered a delicacy.

Proposed regulations would limit each person’s daily catch.

Kipahulu ‘Ohana submitted its proposal to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources in 2019 and has since been gathering community input.

The department will begin to hold informational meetings and finalize rules this spring. By the summer, a request for public hearings will be submitted, said Scott Crawford, the nonprofit's executive director.

Kipahulu ‘Ohana hopes to win approval for the plan by next year.

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