Haena circle 10-3-14

Kaua‘i overwhelmingly supports Hāʻena subsistence fishing plan

Subsistence fishers, lineal descendants of Hāʻena and community members from across Kaua‘i and the rest of the state testified in support of the Hāʻena Community Based Subsistence Fishing Area rules.

Will Caron

Photo by Kimberely Moa

More than 200 community members attended a public hearing held by the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) at Hanalei Elementary School on October 3. The state agency accepted oral testimony regarding the proposed adoption of a new chapter under the Hawai‘i Administrative Rules (HAR) that would establish a Community Based Subsistence Fishing Area (CBSFA) in Hāʻena, Kaua‘i. The subsistence fishing area, within the borders of the Hāʻena ahupua‘a, would extend from the shoreline out to one mile.

If adopted, Hāʻena will be the first community in the state to have proposed and successfully passed its own subsistence fishing area rules, with the purpose of managing and protecting fish stocks, and of reaffirming traditional and customary native Hawaiian subsistence fishing practices within the Ahupua‘a of Hā‘ena.

“These rules reflect the fishing methods we were taught from our kūpuna. These practices are not new,” said Keli‘i Alapai, a Hāʻena fisherman. “You simply take what you need, share what you catch.” He added, “It didn’t used to be about rules; it was about practice. But today, people don’t follow the tradition. So, we made formal rules. The only difference is that now it will be written down.”

More than 70 individuals gave oral testimony at the two-and-a-half-hour hearing. Overwhelmingly, the testimony was in strong support of the rules proposal. Community members packed the school cafeteria and overflowed the lanai, according to a blog post on Kua Hawaiʻi’s website. Almost all of the hearing attendees wore a T-shirt that read “Support Hāʻena: Lawai‘a Pono.”

Before the hearing, attendees joined hands in a circle at the front of the school cafeteria. Kamealoha Forrest gave an oli, followed by a prayer led by Hāʻena kūpuna Samson Mahuiki.

Kaua‘i County Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho, Jr., the first testifier at the hearing, stated: “Throughout my administration, I have always supported this type of local, community action. I am pleased that the Hāʻena community recognizes that ultimately it’s their kuleana to care for their place—our place.”

Community members from Hawai‘i Island, Moloka‘i, Maui, Lāna‘i, and O‘ahu who are hoping to pass their own subsistence fishing rules also spoke in support of the Hāʻena community.

“This is much more than a simple rules process,” said Kolomona Pili Kaho‘ohalahala. “It is an initiative grounded in our kumulipo… Hāʻena is our opportunity to ho‘opono, or to realign our cultural heritage, our genealogies, our practices, with that of our kūpuna.”

Over the past eight years, more than 70 meetings have been held to shape these rules, with participants including the families of Hāʻena, recreational user groups (e.g. wind and kite surfers), the general public and commercial and government entities participating. But it was nearly 20 years ago that efforts to create a subsistence fishing area in Hāʻena began. The process marks a push to return toward traditional, sustainable fishing practices, part of a larger movement of cultural restoration and sustainable stewardship that groups like Kua Hawaiʻi advocate.

“My grandma was known for hand-fishing for pi‘ai. She would know when they would come in. She would put in her hand, under the shelf of the rock, and that’s how she would catch them. She was the only one that would do that. She would hold out her mu‘umu‘u and pile the fish in there and walk home like that,” said Lahela Correa Chandler, a descendant of multiple generations of Hāʻena fishers. “I’m here for my children and grandchildren, my entire ‘ohana—including those that have passed—to secure our future. I’m scared that the mo‘opuna are not going to have what we had unless we do something.”

The proposed rules are intended to sustainably support the consumptive needs of Hā‘ena through culturally-rooted, community-based management and regulation of harvesting methods, gear and a limited take for certain species. The area also protects key spawning and habitat sites, including Mākua Pu‘uohonua, an important nursery for young fish, as documented by both kūpuna knowledge and scientific studies.

The DLNR will present its decision on whether to pass the rules to the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) during a meeting later this month (date TBA). At the previous BLNR meeting concerning the CBSFA, which happened in May of this year, the board members unanimously voted to authorize last week’s Kaua‘i hearing. Kaua‘i board member Thomas Oi even made a tight-throated, emotional speech in support of the plan.

But this next BLNR meeting could be different for two reasons. First, the primary opposition to the CBSFA comes from commercial fishers, many of which have businesses based on O‘ahu. Secondly, the board composition has changed since the last meeting. The May meeting was one of Dr. Samuel M. ‘Ohukani‘ōhi‘a Gon, III‘s last as a board member before his term expired. In July, board members Reed Kishinami and Wesley Furtado were both part of the mass exodus of state agency board members who resigned after Governor Abercrombie signed a new law requiring members of public agency boards to disclose their financial records.

Since then, the governor has appointed three new board members, but it remains to be seen whether or not they will be as friendly toward the CBSFA idea as their predecessors were. If the board does pass the new rules, they will go before Governor Abercrombie for his signature.

“I was taught that there is a traditional responsibility that comes with being Hawaiian,” said Presley Wann, president of the Hui Maka‘āinana o Makana, a community-based organization that spearheaded the rules proposal. “You need to feed your family, but to do that, you need to mālama the resources that feed you. That’s what we do here in Hāʻena because the ocean is our icebox.”

Written testimony regarding the Hāʻena Community Based Subsistence Fishing Area Rules can be submitted through Friday, October 17, 2014 to [email protected]