HONOLULU — A collaborative effort between the state government and two non-profit organizations aims to step enforcement of Hawai‘i’s nearshore fisheries to increase sustainability.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Thursday announced a new joint-initiative between the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Conservation International and the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation.
The initiative will create Fisheries Enforcement Units, a “priority program” of DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement on Maui, Big Island and Kaua‘i, according to a state press release.
“The establishment of Fisheries Enforcement Units is a historic and monumental step forward for the DLNR and Hawai‘i,” acting DOCARE Enforcement Chief Randy Awo said in the release.
DOCARE, the enforcement arm of DLNR, has 94 officers statewide responsible for all laws, rules and regulations that fall under the DLNR.
DLNR Public Information Specialist Deborah Ward said the new units will be part of DLNR’s marine patrol that responds to anything that has to do with fisheries and nearshore waters.
“They can issue citations and they can arrest people,” Ward said of DOCARE officers. “They have full police powers.”
Ward said DOCARE officers also help remove nets that are left behind and often rescue marine life entangled in those nets.
Last year, Ward said, DOCARE officers removed a 1,000-foot laynet left in the waters of Kaneohe Bay, O‘ahu.
“Our management priority is to protect our state’s natural resources and to enforce existing rules and laws in place for that purpose,” DLNR Chairperson William Aila, Jr. said in the release. “We will now be able to create specialized units — initially on the neighbor islands — that will focus exclusively on fisheries enforcement.”
Aila said the result will be a “significant improvement in fisheries compliance,” which will ultimately lead to healthier fish stocks and increased seafood security.
Fisheries Enforcement Units
Each new Fisheries Enforcement Unit created as part of this initiative will consist of one supervisory captain, two field officers, one educational specialist and one administrative support position. The units will focus on fisheries laws and policies. Each unit will have a boat, boat storage facilities close to ocean entry points, and necessary maintenance and fuel budgets to ensure adequate surveillance time on the water.
“Improved enforcement will benefit the majority of fishers that want to fish responsibly and sustainably,” said Melissa Bos, Director of the Conservation International’s Hawai‘i Fish Trust Program. “Working along with the State of Hawai‘i and the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, our goal is to ensure that local communities have access to sustainable and locally caught seafood for generations to come.”
Abercrombie said in the release that people across the islands, no matter what their perspective, have repeatedly told him that the key to protecting Hawai‘i’s fisheries is effective enforcement of the law.
“Hawai‘i’s ecological, economic, and cultural well-being depends on how well we ensure these valuable marine stocks are responsibly fished and managed,” he said.
CI, an Arlington-based nonprofit dedicated to empowering communities to responsibly and sustainably care for nature for the long term well-being of people, is supporting the initiative with a $2 million commitment. HKL Castle, a Kailua-based nonprofit whose mission includes restoring Hawai‘i’s nearshore marine life, will provide $400,000. The state is investing $1.1 million for DOCARE over the next two years, the release stated.
“If we take care of the ocean, the ocean will take care of us,” said HKL Castle CEO and Vice-president Terry George, adding that the partnership “will help secure a future for Hawai‘i marked by abundant fisheries and healthy marine ecosystems.”
A 2006 study from the University of Hawai‘i Social Sciences Research Institute concluded that about 26 percent of Hawai‘i’s households fish regularly, and the majority of nearshore fishers are non-commercial.
“Unsustainable coastal development and pollution, along with a high volume of fishing activity, have led to the decline of 75 percent of Hawai‘i’s nearshore fish population,” the study stated.
Go to www.hawaii.gov, www.hawaiifish.org or www.castlefoundation.org for more information.
• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.
LIHU‘E — The Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcementis the enforcement arm of DLNR, whose 94 conservation resourceenforcement officers statewide are responsible for enforcementactivities of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Kaua‘i has 14 officers, Big Island and Maui have 21 officers each,and O‘ahu as 38 officers.
The division, with full police powers, enforces all state laws andrules involving state lands, parks, historical sites, forestreserves, aquatic life and wildlife areas, small boat harbors andocean recreation, coastal zones, conservation districts and stateshores, plus county ordinances involving county parks. The divisionalso enforces laws relating to firearms, ammunition, and dangerousweapons.
DOCARE’s primary responsibility is natural resource enforcement inthe state. Hawai‘i has the fourth largest coastline in the nation,with 23,000 acres of inland surface water, three million acres ofstate ocean waters, and 410,000 acres of coral reef around the mainHawaiian Islands.
Hawai‘i has the largest tropical rain forest system in the UnitedStates and the 11th largest state forest of which over one millionacres are utilized for hunting.
In addition, there are two million acres of conservation land and1.2 million acres of state-owned lands.
DLNR enforcement officers throughout the state are responsible tocontact, inform, educate, and provide enforcement to the 1.2million residents and 6 million visitors who utilize the state’sresources on a regular basis.