‘Long time coming’

LIHUE — Keli’i Alapa’i, a 57-year-old Haena resident and lifelong fisherman, was taught at a young age to respect and care for Kauai’s natural resources. 

“It’s a way of living,” he said. 

And if you do that, he said, the land and ocean will provide for and take care of you in return. 

Today, that way of life has been lost, Alapa’i said. The ocean has been overfished, and its resources have been overused and exploited.

A subsistence fishery area, however, could be right around the corner for the North Shore community of Haena. Alapa’i views it as an attempt to return things to the way they were in the old days — before things got “out of hand.”

Presley Wann, president of the Hui Maka’ainana o Makana, said Haena’s pursuit of a designation and co-management relationship, one that will allow the community to address overfishing, started almost 20 years ago.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. 

The Department of Land and Natural Resources will hold a public hearing Friday to adopt a new chapter under the Hawaii Administrative Rules relating to the establishment of the Haena Community Based Subsistence Fishing Area. The hearing is from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Hanalei Elementary School.

This fishing area would include state waters within the Haena ahupuaa, extending from the shoreline out to one mile and along the coast from the border of Na Pali State Park to just east of Makua (Tunnels) Beach. 

The proposed rules would limit the type of fishing gear and harvesting methods that may be used, prohibit the harvest of marine life for commercial purposes, set new daily take and possession limits for certain species and impose fines for noncompliance.

It would also establish the “Makua Puuhonua” (marine refuge), consisting of all waters within the fringing reef of Makua lagoon, as a “no entry” sub-zone, as well as an “Opihi Management Area” within 300 feet of the shoreline between the boundaries of Haena and Na Pali state parks.

While he is sure some will be quick to say that the Haena community is simply trying to keep the resources there for itself, Alapa’i said it is about implementing simple, basic rules, respecting the ocean and living sustainably.

“I teach them what I learn and I want them to carry this on,” he said of his children. “We want this to be for generations to come.” 

Wann said there are more than a dozen communities around the state pushing for similar designation, and that the success of Haena could prove key to the outcome of those other efforts.

“It’s an opportunity for communities to take back and take care of their resources,” Wann said. “Who knows better about the resources than the people who live there.”

For the last eight years, the Haena community has been working to develop rules and regulations for the CBSFA, a process Wann described as “long and frustrating.” Upwards of 50 public meetings have been held. 

Wann said he and others in Ha’ena have an obligation to see the project through in order to ensure future generations have healthy fisheries to enjoy.

DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward said testimony received during Friday’s meeting will form part of the record and be published as part of the report to the Land Board when the rules are brought to it for approval.

Wann said the matter could go before the board for decision making as early as Oct. 24, but a date has not yet been confirmed. 

The DLNR urges interested persons to attend the public hearing to present relevant information and individual opinion for the department to consider. Those unable to attend or wishing to present additional comments, may mail written testimony by Friday, Oct. 17 to the Division of Aquatic Resources, 1151 Punchbowl Street, Room 330, Honolulu, HI 96813.

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