New vessel could set template for state fisheries enforcement

A new state fisheries enforcement vessel, Kai’aiki, which will be blessed March 23 at Kahului Harbor, will carry members of a pilot fisheries enforcement unit that will patrol the north Maui coastline and may be a template for the development of other units statewide, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources announced Friday.

The unit will launch sometime this spring with a goal of “developing a successful fisheries enforcement model” for the DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement that could be used throughout the state, a news release about the program and blessing said.

The Community Fisheries Enforcement Unit will consist of five members, including division enforcement officers, a data manager and a member of Makai Watch, a group that works to restore and sustain coastal resources, said Randy Awo, who has worked in the enforcement division for 25 years.

“This initiative is a pilot program that focuses on the protection of our nearshore fisheries through community collaboration and the creation of enforcement models that are more focused and efficient,” he said.

Awo said that the 100 state enforcement division officers patrol more than 3 million acres of water, the fourth largest coastline in the nation; 1.3 million acres of state land; and the 11th largest forest reserve in the U.S.

“Clearly, bold and innovative ideas are needed to assist the DLNR in managing and protecting these precious resources,” Awo said.

The enforcement unit will work a 13-mile stretch of coastline from Hulu Island off Kahakuloa to Baldwin Beach Park in Paia, extending three miles seaward.

“The patrol vessel gives us the means to transform DOCARE’s capacity to effectively manage nearshore fisheries and respond to Hawaii’s fishing community and the general public,” said Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Kai’aiki, which is named after the wind that blows from Wailuku to Hamakuapoko, was given to the state by Conservation International and its Hawaii Fish Trust, whose goal is to restore seafood security in Hawaii.

“Hawaii’s people depend on our ocean for their livelihood and sustenance,” said Jason Philibotte, Hawaii Fish Trust director. “The Community Fisheries Enforcement Unit will be a vital tool to help ensure fishing and sustainable local seafood in Hawaii for generations to come.”

The development of the pilot enforcement program is a collaborative effort among the Hawaii Fish Trust, the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation and the DLNR, the news release said.

DLNR Chairman William J. Aila Jr. encouraged the Maui fishing community and the public to attend the blessing and open house to learn about the unit and how it will support the community and “pono fishing activities in the community.”

The blessing/open house will be held at the Kahului Harbor boat launch ramp from 1 to 3 p.m.

“Healthier and more productive fisheries rely on effective management and responsive attention to the needs and requests of the general public and Hawaii’s fishing community,” said Awo. “Partnerships, environmental protection, public education, voluntary compliance and cooperation, conflict resolution, and grass-roots empowerment will contribute to the success of this pilot initiative.”

* Lee Imada can be reached at