Groups eye voluntary marine stewardship

MAHAULEPU — Protecting Earth’s oceans is paramount to survival on Kauai and two local organizations are providing an opportunity for residents to have a say in preserving their place.

The conversation is set to begin 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Koloa Neighborhood Center.

The goal is the creation of a voluntary marine stewardship area off the coast of Maha’ulepu.

The stewardship area would be specifically between Kipu Kai Beach and Gillin’s Beach — and the conversation will be about how to achieve conservation goals without government intervention.

“Often, the people don’t want state or federal government to come in and manage a place,” said Kalasara Setaysha, of Kohola Leo. “We’re bringing together the stakeholders to talk because, in the end, we all want the same thing.”

That one desired thing is an abundant and diverse ocean ecosystem, and to achieve that Kohola Leo has been working with Kauai’s Surfrider Foundation on the potential creation of the voluntary marine stewardship area.

The meeting is for everyone who uses the Mahaulepu area, and the stewardship area could be used as a model for other areas where ocean-using behavior can be voluntarily limited in the future.

And when it comes to rules, it’s the people who use the area who will be writing the do’s and don’ts in the voluntary stewardship area.

“It is like when we stop at a stop sign, even if there are no police around. Everyone knows it’s a good idea to be responsible,” said Gordon LaBedz, of Kauai’s Surfrider Foundation.

The scope of the project would be primarily educational, LaBedz said, and enforcement would largely depend on the honor system.

“The government won’t be involved in enforcement; it will be all word of mouth,” LaBedz said.

While the topic is to limit human ocean activity in the offshore waters of Mahaulepu, Friday’s meeting specifically will look at limiting tour-boat operations, Naval activity, certain polluting activities and certain fishing practices.

“No one likes to limit themselves, but we have to come up with solutions to preserving our ocean,” LaBedz said. “So we’re just providing a chance for the people of that area to gather and discuss.”

Both Setaysha and LaBedz said it’s important to understand the outcome of the Maha’ulepu Voluntary Marine Stewardship Area is completely in the hands of those who live in that area.

“If no one agrees, nothing will happen,” according to a press release. “If we can reach a consensus, the area can be protected.”

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