By Kaneholani Lind
To celebrate World Oceans Day June 8, I write this letter on behalf of the Maui Nui Makai Network, a group of community and partner organizations working to protect and restore healthy coastal and marine ecosystems for the people of Maui Nui. The traditional practitioners of our communities understand and value the relationship between people and nature. The ocean is our icebox, so every day is Oceans Day to us.
We believe that enjoying our ocean — fishing and gathering and sharing the gifts of the sea with our ohana and friends — is a big part of our island lifestyle. Along with that comes the kuleana to malama our places. I am personally concerned with the resource declines I’ve seen in Kipahulu and across Hawaii. I know from stories from my parents and kupuna that it was not always this way. Our oceans were once thriving and plentiful.
E Ola Ke Kai, E Ola Kakou — as the ocean thrives, so do we.
The organizations of our network and many others across the islands work along with the state to improve the condition of reefs and fisheries threatened by warming and rising seas, land-based pollution and runoff, and over harvesting. We continue to apply Hawaiian traditions that teach us to observe changes in our environments and adapt times for fishing, harvesting and resting these areas.
The Hokule’a took these ideas around the world, and now through the Malama Hawaii sail she is showcasing the work of communities throughout the state. For example:
• In my community and others in East Maui, voluntary rest areas for opihi have been established by community groups since 2008, involving no legal designation by the state. Through education and outreach, people fishing and gathering are asked to comply with no-take areas and help bring opihi populations back to their once abundant levels.
• Increases in fish abundance have already been documented at Haena on Kauai, the state’s first permanent Community-Based Subsistence Fishery Management Area established in 2015.
• Following a 20-year effort spearheaded by the Kaupulehu community on Hawaii island, the Department of Land and Natural Resources established a 10-year no-take reserve in 2016 to give marine resources a chance to rest and replenish. Community volunteers continue to work with DLNR enforcement officers to make sure visitors to this stretch of Kona coast know that they are in a marine rest area.
• After 25 years of managing, monitoring, drafting rules, and conducting outreach, our Network’s Hui Malama O Mo’omomi submitted a CBSFA proposal for the Moomomi-Northwest Coast of Molokai to DAR in 2016. Its proposal, based on traditional management practices and community engagement in management, focuses on returning abundance to reef fish species important for subsistence to nearby communities, and is awaiting public hearings.
• And in East Maui, we are also seeking designation of Kipahulu moku as a CBSFA to protect the resources that our traditional lifestyles depend on.
To support proper proposals like the Moomomi and Kipahulu CBSFAs and other community-based management activities, I participate in growing networks of community leaders. These networks inspire us to understand that each of us working in our own places are part of a much larger movement to perpetuate traditional Hawaiian resource management, supported by modern science and tools. I believe this is the only solution to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the lifestyle handed down to us by our ancestors, living from the abundance of our seas.
Please join us in the movement to work together to support pono management actions — at the community and state level — to help ensure the long-term health of our fisheries, coastal resources and communities. Learn more about our network and how you can support our work at www.mauinui.net.
Let’s celebrate World Oceans Day by giving back and taking care of our life-giving ocean.
* Kaneholani Lind is current po’o (chair) of the Maui Nui Makai Network, works with the Kipahulu ohana, and is a father, fisherman and farmer in Kipahulu continuing the Hawaiian traditions passed to him through his ohana.