Mo‘omomi subsistence fishing area driven by the community of Molokai

Viewpoint

As the name suggests, the development of a community-based subsistence fishing area (CBSFA) is initiated by a community group in Hawaii with the specific purpose of “reaffirming and protecting fishing practices customarily and traditionally exercised for purposes of native Hawaiian subsistence, culture, and religion” (Hawaii Revised Statutes 188-22.6). CBSFA designation is intended to empower local communities to restore and protect in perpetuity the marine resources in places where they have historically practiced traditional and customary subsistence fishing.

Such is the case with the CBSFA designation proposal for Mo’omomi and a large portion of the North Coast of Molokai. As proposed, the area would extend from Ilio Point to Pelekunu Valley, including Kalawao Peninsula where Kalaupapa Settlement is located. In addition to including 27 miles of coastline, it would extend one mile out to sea.

Over the past 30-40 years, people who live in the area say they have observed a significant decline in the abundance and sizes of certain fish species along Molokai’s north shore. They’ve attributed this decline to a variety of factors, including commercial fishing, overly efficient gear and inappropriate harvest. Utilizing a mechanism approved by the state Legislature, Hui Malama o Mo’omomi (HMM), a community group mostly comprised of Hoolehua Hawaiian homesteaders, has peitioned the Department of Land and Natural Resources to establish the Mo’omomi North Coast of Molokai CBSFA.

If designated as proposed, all commercial fishing within this CBSFA would be kapu, except the take of akule and taape. It would also prohibit night diving and scuba spearfishing, which are not considered traditional and customary practices. Bag and size limits, seasonal closures, gear restrictions for certain species and special restrictions for Kawaaloa Bay are also proposed.

Is this a done deal? No. Scoping meetings to get feedback on the proposal were held on Molokai, Oahu and Maui in March and April to provide the opportunity for feedback and comments on the Hui’s proposal. More than 200 people offered comments. This will help ensure that, if the CBSFA is formed, the designated area will support traditional and customary native Hawaiian fishing and gathering practices for current and future generations. Everyone who fishes in the CBSFA will need to follow the same rules.

The DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) would be responsible for the enforcement of any and all rules that might be adopted for the Moomomi CBSFA. DOCARE officers will patrol the area and respond to violations as time and resources allow. In addition, training will be provided to any interested community volunteers on how to properly observe, document and report violations. Twenty volunteers at Haena on Kauai, the site of the first community-based subsistence fishing area in Hawaii, have taken this training.

All comments from the scoping meetings are under review. If a decision is made to pursue rule-making, the state Board of Land and Natural Resources would need to authorize DLNR to proceed with public hearings. It is a long process, but necessary to assure that the views of all stakeholders are heard.

* Bruce S. Anderson, Ph.D., is administrator of the state DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources.

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