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Maui Nui Makai Network attracts new communities

Mac Poepoe discussed the lunar calendar as it relates to fishing.

At the semiannual Maui Nui Makai Network meeting in early March, 12 communities from Maui, Molokai and Lanai came together to learn about how the network can bolster their local resource management efforts and to share traditional Hawaiian knowledge related to fishing, resource management, food security and human well-being.

The MNMN is a peer learning hui of community leaders who work together and support one another in their efforts to protect and restore coastal and marine ecosystems for the people of Maui Nui. Currently, the group includes six communities from Maui, Molokai and Lanai, but more are seeking to join. Guest communities included Ka Honua Momona, Makaalae, Keanae-Wailuanui, Kaupo, Nahiku and Olowalu.

“The Network is a grassroots collaboration that connects people excited about how to be better resource managers,” said Karin Osuga, Maui Nui Makai Network coordinator. “We’ve developed a learning portfolio that helps communities prioritize resource challenges, understand and integrate culture, apply science, and share knowledge to improve coral reef and fisheries health,” she said.

To foster place-based learning, MNMN’s meeting host duties are rotated among members. The March meeting was co-hosted on Molokai by Mac Poepoe of Mo’omomi and Noelani Lee from Ka Honua Momona. Ka Honua Momona is a living classroom for nature located on the leeward side of Molokai at Ali’i fishpond.

“There is no better way to learn about Mo’omomi than from Uncle Mac (Poepoe), a master fisherman who has forged the path to sustainable and pono fishing at Mo’omomi for more than 50 years and taught hundreds of keiki the practice of lawai’a pono,” said Lee, executive director of the all-wahine team at Ka Honua Momona.

Participants of the three-day meeting learned from Uncle Mac about the lunar calendar, which explains when to fishand when not to fish according to the lunar cycle, and from Lee about how her team integrates culture, community health, education and sustainability at Ali’i Fishpond.

They also explored The Nature Conservancy’s Mo’omomi Preserve, a 923-acre coastal dune ecosystem that is now home to more than 3,000 wedge-tailed shearwaters (‘ua’u kani) and is a robust and growing stronghold for native coastal plants.

The group saw a shocking quantity of plastic waste along the remote shoreline of Mo’omomi and discussion inevitably turned to the challenges of increasing amounts of plastic trash in the oceans, warming seas and the decline of important fish species such as ‘ula, moi, ‘uhu and kole across the islands.

To address declines like these, MNMN community groups are involved in many different strategies, including reducing runoff carrying dirt into the ocean with gabions, organizing voluntary rest areas to give ‘opihi populations a chance to recover, and pursuing co-management arrangements with the state to restore local fisheries and improve the health of nearshore waters.

“Communities like Mo’omomi are at the forefront of effective management, using and teaching traditional practices to help ensure sustainable fisheries for generations to come,” Osuga said. “The network can help share those lessons learned and engage people in positive change,” she said.

Other guests in attendance included Walter Ritte, the Division of Aquatic Resources Marine 30-by-30 coordinator; Brad Stubbs, who shared about his new role engaging stakeholders in the goal of effectively manage 30 percent of Hawaii’s nearshore waters by 2030; Luna Kekoa, the state’s community-based fishing area planner; Kehau Springer from Conservation International; and Supin Wongbusarakum, social scientist from the Ecosystem Sciences Division of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.