State Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kaua‘i-Ni‘ihau, along with state Sen. J. Kalani English, D-Maui-Moloka‘i-Lana‘i, are on Ni‘ihau this morning, discussing shoreline fisheries depletion with residents there.
English is the state Senate’s lone Native Hawaiian. He speaks Hawaiian fluently.
The key topic of discussion is depletion of shoreline fisheries upon which local residents depend for their subsistence, according to the senators.
Commercial and recreational fishing by boats off Ni‘ihau has had a “severe impact” on shoreline fishing Ni‘ihau residents depend on for subsistence, residents said when Gov. Linda Lingle visited earlier this year.
English and Hooser are discussing the possible formation of a shoreline subsistence zone similar to one already established on the island of Moloka‘i, in the northwest area of Mo‘omomi.
“The formation of a subsistence zone, similar to the one on Moloka‘i, is an important issue to the people of Ni‘ihau,” Hooser said.
“We are honored that Mr. (Bruce) Robinson and the Ni‘ihau ‘ohana have invited us to the island to hear what they would like to see happen to protect this beautiful place for not only the current generation, but for the future as well.”
“I look forward to meeting again with the people of Ni‘ihau, to hear their concerns, and to utilize my ability to speak and understand not only the Hawaiian language, but what it means to be Hawaiian, so that I may serve as a conduit through which my colleagues will be able to relate to the unique needs of the citizens of Ni‘ihau and the issues that are important to them,” said English.
Residents of Ni‘ihau use Hawaiian as their first language.
Ilei Beniamina, a Ni‘ihau native, advocate and instructor at Kaua‘i Community College, is accompanying the senators and members of the Robinson family.
Site visits to Ni‘ihau are extremely rare, as the island is owned by the Robinson family, and members of the family guard the residents’ wishes for privacy.