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State plans to manage nearshore waters. Local fishermen want a 'seat at the table'

James Watt
James Watt

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has a plan to manage more than a quarter of Hawaiʻi's nearshore waters — but some local fishermen fear it will add more restrictions to gathering rights.

Local fishermen such as Randy Cates worries the DLNR’s initiative, Holomua Marine 30x30, will add more limits to local fishermen who gather seafood for personal use.

Born and raised in Hawaiʻi, Cates has been fishing for most of his life.

"Most fishermen that I know are true conservationists. We don't get paid to do it," Cates testified in a meeting. "We do it because it's the right thing to do, and it's for our future. Yet when it comes to the management of the fisheries, it's very difficult for us to get a seat at the table."

The Holomua initiative is a part of the Statewide Sustainability Program launched by former Gov. David Ige in 2016.

The program aims to manage 30% of each island's nearshore waters by 2030. Officials hope that this control will improve the health of the ocean with constant monitoring from assigned marine science and conservation groups.

Currently, about 6% of the state's nearshore water is managed by the DLNR.

Godfrie Akaka of the Native Hawaiian Gathering Rights Association asked the department to add more local fishermen to the discussion table.

"In general, the 30x30 plan is receiving designs to take away gathering rights, or even diminishing gathering rights to take away from the people who sustain themselves on 'oceanary' resources," said Akaka.

Kevin Chang from Kuaʻaina Ulu ʻAuamo disagrees. Chang said the nonprofit's mission is to build community-based resource management.

"The 30x30, that’s happening a lot around the world, is about closures. Hawaiʻi is a different thing. Hawaiʻi says 'look, we can work with our people to better manage our environment,'" Chang said.

Nearshore management can mean a variety of tactics from limiting the maximum number of fish caught to restricting the type of fishing gear and methods.

Not all management plans directly involve fishing though. Coral restoration and conducting research at Papahānaumokuākeaare also part of the plan.

The DLNR’s Holomua Marine 30x30 initiative is currently in discussion with Maui fishermen and cultural experts to draft a management plan.

Zoe Dym was a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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